How-to (maybe) win your bracket pool

How knowing less about college basketball is the key to bracket success

I have a love-hate relationship with March Madness brackets.

In the days between Selection Sunday and the first NCAA tournament game, there has always been a bubbling hope inside me believing this will be the year my bracket does well. The world is a glowing place until this pure joy quickly turns sour when one of my Final Four teams inexplicably loses on the first day of the tournament.

But not this year.

This year is different because this year I have figured out the secret to success: know less.

In year’s past, I naively believed my knowledge of college basketball was on my side. This year I am done with knowledge. I have quit knowledge. (Or maybe not quit knowledge but now am no longer in college and have a job that focuses on high school sports [thx Sentinel] and so I have not been able to focus on the college games.)

I have been an avid student of the college game. From the start of the season to the conference tournaments, I was plugged in to the intricacies of college basketball. Not just Pac-12 teams but across the nation. I fell in love with a rag-tag St. John’s team, I was confounded by how Kansas’ Perry Ellis was still in college and through it all, my bracket always flopped.

Every year my sister Abe, who can stare at basketball game on TV and not know what is happening, beats me. Her knowledge, which stems from jersey colors and the fact that Kansas has a cute mascot, has overpowered me every time.

I once had a goldfish (RIP Collin 2010-2017) who I had fill out a bracket. I put a piece of tape down the middle of his bowl and then counted to 10. If he was on the left side, I wrote down the team on the top line and if he was on the right side, the bottom. I repeated this until he crowned a champion.

After the Elite Eight, sweet Collin was in the 99th percentile on ESPN’s brackets while my bracket that I filled out – me, a human being who had been paying attention closely all season – was in the bottom .7 percentile.

Brackets are clearly not my expertise. Until this year.

With all thought suspended and the knowing brackets are arbitrary exercise in randomness and luck, I filled mine out on Sunday night with a wide-eyed ignorance. Teams I knew next-to-nothing about were suddenly popping up in my Sweet 16 and beyond. I was nearly swayed by NBA-talent of Oklahoma’s Trae Young and Alabama’s Collin Sexton to pull off upsets, but thought better of it.

As I sat back and admired my work, I am proud to say that I am now a true believer in Villanova basketball. And maybe, just maybe, these picks will let me be better than my old goldfish.

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