NCAA Tournament brackets are everywhere. It seems like everyone is doing it. Some play for money, some play for fun, some play for personal pride. I love that Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic bet on one sheet they call the "Sheet of Integrity." I have found less desire to fill out many brackets (even though I have run many in the past) and more desire to try just one and compare with friends, just for bragging rights. I just love this time of year for college basketball how teams play when they get to their conference tournaments, with the possibility of making the NCAA Tournament. I can't turn it off. I call it research....
By research, I really mean research. My real contest this time of year combines the excitement of the March Madness Bracket and fantasy sports. My friends and I get together and conduct a fantasy draft of players involved in the NCAA Tournament (one of our players is connecting by Skype, due to the fact that he is out of town). We draft 10 players for our individual teams. The team that scores the most total points in the tournament wins. We use Googe Docs to share the results - the spreadsheet is there for people to keep up with scoring throughout the tournament. Yes, it is quite competitive. And there is a lot of smack talk, but, my team involves a lot of research and data collection.
Data? Yes, data. I have compiled a list of over 150 players that will be involved in the "big dance." I have also collected the stats involving their points per game average. Spreadsheets (thanks Google Docs) involving that data and also the anticipation of how many games they will play. This is where the bracket comes into play. You have to be able to predict a team's success, to be able to select their players for your team. So you crunch numbers to establish a draft order for the big night. Do you take high-scoring players in a few games, or a medium-scoring player in a lot of games? That is where different people take risks. I tend to side with players that play a lot of games.
What data is most important? Some select by taking players from their favorite teams. Some select from the teams that they feel will advance the farthest. Some select from teams that are hot, while I try to take the scientific direction. What players score big on teams that will play the most games. I hope that my buddies don't pick all of my top players. I try not to deviate, but draft trends sometimes cause me to leave my sheet, just so I don't get blocked out of teams that I want to cheer for. I love my local Buckeyes, and always cheer for the Tarheels. The key players for our competition often come from the Cinderella teams that advance when unsuspected. Last year, Butler and Gordon Hayward took me deep into the Tournament.
So, do you pick players that score a ton? Or, do you take players that should play a lot of games? That is what makes our draft fun and competitive. There is so much more you can do than just fill out a bracket. I will spend a lot of time over the next day or two making some decisions in establishing my draft order. I hope I don't choose players that end up on an upset team or a player that is on the injured list (did that a couple of years ago - oooops!). I know it will be fun, interesting, and keep us interested in the whole tournament, even if the teams we cheer for are ousted. Have fun with your bracket. I will.