Student Voice


June 12, 2024


Columnist gives insight into March Madness

March 10, 2011

How many of you fill out a tournament bracket for the NCAA Division I basketball tournament? For most of us the answer is an obvious yes, and for some of us, we fill out multiple. There are also many strategies for filling out those brackets.  Some pick solely based on their favorite teams, while others go strictly by seeding, and still others have no rhyme or reason behind their pickings.

As a person of reason, you try to pick the number of games that you will get correct.  While I myself am guilty of it too, if it came down to sense and sensibility, chances are, we as humans, would never even fill out a bracket to begin with, due to the high percentage of failure.  The odds of filling out a correct bracket that has 68 teams (this number is new for 2011), the chances are 2^67 or 147,573,952,589,676,412,928 (147.57 quintillion) possibilities.  With this is mind, I believe that you would have to start now and fill out a bracket every single minute of every single day up until the tournament begins- so good luck!

However, have no fear; there are some statistics to help increase your odds. For example, the No. 1 seed is 104-0 against the No. 16 seed since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985. Nevertheless, since the NCAA started seeding teams in 1979 only once have all No. 1 seeds made it to the Final Four.  That happened in 2008 when Kansas, North Carolina, UCLA, and Memphis made it. However, being seeded No. 1 is not a terrible thing.  In fact, only twice, in 1980 and 2006, were there no No. 1 seeds in the Final Four. 

It may seem as common sense (the better the seed the better your odds are of winning) but 2009 marked the first time in tournament history that all 12 of the 1, 2, and 3 seeds made it to the Sweet 16. It is also worth noting that the No. 9 seed fares better against the No. 8 seed. Historically, the No. 8 seed is 48-56 against the No. 9 seed (46.15%).

While eyes and ears are tuned to the TV sets during the madness, it is the underdog stories that make the tournament exciting and completely unpredictable. Nevertheless, if you want to have the best chance at succeeding, do not pick any seed lower than eight to win the tournament.  Only Villanova in 1985 won the title as the No. 8 seed, the lowest seed ever in tournament history.

As for me, I use a few methods to pick my teams.  One, is that I never pick Duke to go past the Final Four because you can’t pick a team whose coach looks like the mascot. Two, is that I do not pick rival schools among the Big Ten.  This may seem silly as Ohio State is likely to be a No. 1 seed, but if you cannot picture yourself cheering for a team in the regular season, why cheer for them in the postseason? 

And besides, cheering for rivals is against anything a true sports fan would believe in!  But this is why they call the tournament “madness” because no matter your theory or reason, you can be completely right, or completely wrong.  Let the madness begin!

Ashley Goettl is an alumna of UW-River Falls. She was editor of the Student Voice from fall semester 2011 to spring semester 2013.