Monday, March 4, 2013
If you're ability as a human to breath and string together complete sentences is still in tact, you're probably betting on the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament later this month--and if you're able to breath and talk and also are a compulsive gambler, you might just be betting on the NIT and CBI and women's tournaments as well.
There are NCAA Tournament Bracket Contests all over the place, and you really have to go out of your way not to accidentally gamble this month. Even the President fills out a bracket!
Purely from a social acceptance standpoint, March is the best time for betting, since literally every human with running water fills out an NCAA Tournament bracket and takes part in this annual March Madness ritual. It's a fun period of time that promotes comaraderie in the workplace and brings large groups of people together (but god forbid please don't legalize this awful sports betting thing).
When you're filling out your bracket, it's important to be a little different. You don't want to end up with a cookie cutter bracket that has all the top seeds advancing and then miss out on all the fun when the VMIs and Butlers of the world wind up in the Final Four.
Having said that, though, you also don't want to be the guy that overdoes it. To us, the most important round is always the first round (or, with play-in games, the second round). You might not get as many points in your bracket pool for a team advancing out of the field of 64, but with 32 games going it, it really is the framework of your bracket, and mistakes early can be costly.
To the question we pose above: will this be the year that a 16-seed upsets a 1-seed in the tournament? The answer is absolutely not. At least, you shouldn't bet it that way. The probability is slim to none, and actually, we probably have a big enough sample size at this point to say that the probability is none.
As much fun as it is to pick Coppin State or Austin Peay to win early, remember that you're knocking out a top-seed that figures to go on much further, and thus losing all those future points should your upset fail, as it is likely to do.
While you want upsets, it's better to be overly cautious than overly risky in the early going, because it's likely that if you don't have that 15-seed winning in the first round, neither does anyone else in your bracket, so it's really a wash (unless you have the 2-seed going particularly far).
The point of all the obvious stuff above is that we just don't want you falling behind from the start without at least having an honest look at the historical data available. Since the tournament expanded to include at least 64 teams back in 1985, here are the results int he field of 64:
The #1 seed is 112–0 against the #16 seed (100%)
The #2 seed is 106–6 against the #15 seed (94.64%)
The #3 seed is 96–16 against the #14 seed (85.71%)
The #4 seed is 88–24 against the #13 seed (78.57%)
The #5 seed is 74–38 against the #12 seed (66.07%)
The #6 seed is 74–38 against the #11 seed (66.07%)
The #7 seed is 67–45 against the #10 seed (59.82%)
The #8 seed is 54–58 against the #9 seed (48.21%)
As you see, the top four spots advance to the next round more than 75% of the time, and given that there are four-seeds each, the probability is that all 16 of the top seeds advance. You often hear about the 12-seed vs. 5-seed being the biggest upset potential, and it rings pretty true. As you see, the 12% drop from a 4-seed's advancement probability (78%) to a 5-seed (66%--same as a 6-seed) is the largest disparity on the board. In all cases for seeds 5 through 8, it's likely that at least one of the high seeds will be going home after their first game.
It's also interesting to note that more 9-seeds have won the 8-seed/9-seed matchup in the tournament's history, so that game is really a toss up at that point.
Study these historical figures. Know these historical figures. But don't live or die by them. Use your own judgement, but know that in some cases you may be doing so against the grain. Just so long as you know that going in, you'll already have an advantage over most of your historically inept coworkers.