Monday, March 16, 2009

Tourney Time!

It's that time of year again. March Madness. The Big Dance. Win or Go Home. The single most exciting time of the annual sports calendar. The NCAA Basketball Tournament.

And my beloved and beleaguered University of Memphis Tigers are there again.

Coming off a truly heartbreaking loss last year in the Champoinship Game to the utterly undeserving Kansas Jayhawks, Memphis is hoping to set things right this year as the less-favored but equally-formidable #2 seed in the West bracket. That means they will most likely have to go through both UCONN and our arch-nemesis Louisville in order to get back to the Finals... not to mention other possible contenders like Wake Forest and, ahem, freakin' Kansas. It won't be an easy trip to Detroit.

Like any true UMemphis fan and alum, I'm putting all my hopes in the Tigers again this year. I'm glad they're not seeded #1, if only because I'm superstitious and I don't want to repeat any possible bad luck conditions from last year. I think we're in one of the "easier" brackets, though anyone familiar with the Big Dance knows that the pre-tourney rankings and seeds matter very little if you happen to run up against a team that has the mojo on their side that night. (See: 2008 Kansas Jayhawks) This year's brackets are all over the web right now, but here's one for your handy reference.

Even if you're not a basketball fan, the NCAA Basketball Tourney is a fun time of year, because it's the time that we all get to try our hands at bracketology (the process of picking the winners in the tournament). Most people enter into some or another form of a Bracket (betting) Pool. My many, many years of experience with bracket pools is that the person who wins is almost always the person who knows and cares the least about college basketball, and also usually the person who has the most ridiculously idiosyncratic formula for picking winners. My mom used to pick winners by their team colors. One of my college classmates picked winners according to his utterly unscientific rendering of the animal Kingdom (if I remember it right, it was dogs, then cats, then other mammals, then birds, then fish, then variations on the human). My friend and soon-to-be-colleague Kyle once picked his bracket by imagining who would win if the mascots of the two competing teams actually battled. That method may seem easy when you're dealing with games like Memphis Tigers vs. Gonzaga Bulldogs, but it gets exponentially harder when you run into bouts like Syracuse Orangemen vs. Wake Forest Demon Deacons, or Illinois Illini vs. Purdue Boilermakers. And then what do you do with birds? I mean, wouldn't they win most battles by avoiding conflict until their antagonist tired out? Kind of like Rocky did with Apollo Creed?

So, if you get a chance to do so-- and chances are not hard to find-- try to get into a pool and send me your heterodox formulas for picking winners. The person with the most ridiculous method wins, and if I get the formula before the tourney games start on Wednesday, I may even enter a bracket using your formula myself. It sure can't hurt my odds!

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