Friday, March 16, 2012

Bracket Showdown, Day 1: Barack, Chalk, Jayhawk

The greatest first day of the tournament I ever had was back in 2008. Between a series of brilliant thefts of other people's deductions and some good old-fashioned dumb luck, I actually got all 16 games correct. Like a pitcher in the middle of a perfect game, I refused to talk about it, but spent a good part of the morning going back to ESPN's bracket challenge page to admire the score.

It wasn't long, of course, before I got my first loss of the tournament. It was all downhill from there, and I finished somewhere between "mediocre" and "flipping coins" that year.

All of which to say that March Madness is not a mad dash, but rather some kind of mad marathon*. Still, it's never to early to jump to conclusions! Let's take a look at the scoreboard and discuss the results of day one:

  • There are, I'm sure, thousands upon thousands of perfect brackets remaining. None in this showdown, though: Eddie Timanus and Peter Tiernan's medium-risk bracket each got 15 points for the early lead (both missing only Wichita State).
  • It was a good day for the higher seeds, as a pure-chalk bracket (picking just the higher seeds) would have netted you 14 points. As a result, nine chalk-heavy brackets are tied for second. Barack Obama, for instance, missed just two (West Virginia and UNLV), giving him a better score on the day than Nate Silver (12 points). Am I the only one who enjoys that matchup? Okay fine.
  • Bringing up the rear are four brackets tied with 10 points each, including LeBron James'. That's funny: I assumed he was going to be great in the early rounds, and then fall apart at the end.
Two final notes on the brackets: First, several of the CBS experts' brackets have changed since Monday, mostly incorporating news of Fab Melo's ineligibility. I will double-check the brackets today and make sure there are no other changes. Second, you may have noticed that several of the expert systems (Nate Silver, Ken Pomeroy, and Jeff Sagarin, among others) only gave probabilities and not an actual bracket. This is known in the industry as "a total cop-out". No one is in an office probability pool (or at least, I hope not), so I built brackets based on those probabilities, always taking the team with the higher probability of moving to the next round.

*-Maybe like a triathlon, or an ultramarathon or something. Those are pretty crazy.

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