Mastering the Madness

By Judd Liebman

Every March brings a familiar tradition for Greg Myerson ’13. Myerson has filled out a bracket predicting the 64-team March Madness NCAA Tournament every year he can remember.

He starts watching college games at the beginning of the year and takes in everything he can. Come March, he has a big task: Myerson has to pick the winners of 63 games to enter into both the Harvard-Westlake and ESPN bracket competition.

The tournament starts Thursday, and the rules are simple. Each round has a point value, with the first round of games worth the least and the final round worth the most. The more correct predictions, the more points a participant wins.

The Student-Athlete Advisory Council has planned the school competition in which all students can submit a bracket to Yahoo.com. Predictions need to be submitted by Thursday morning. SAAC has organized college games to be screened in Taper Gymnasium on Thursday and Friday from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. Owners of the three best brackets will receive gift cards to various restaurants, SAAC member Matt Wolfen ’12 said.

Myerson, who has Kentucky taking the championship, usually uses pre-tournament rankings to decide many of the matchups.

“Generally, I’m not the most adventurous,” he said. “I’m not going to be the guy to have VCU (the 12 seed in the South) or Butler in the Final Four. I think about how teams have done in the past. I look at coaching and how good the team’s coaching is, or if they have an electric player. And I look for experience.”

He, like Alex Rand-Lewis ’12, who will participate in the bracket competition hosted by the Student Athletic Advisory Council and one created by a friend made through Yahoo, looks on ESPN for more information on teams. Rand-Lewis doesn’t follow college ball throughout the year, so he uses ESPN “Bracketology” as his primary source. He doesn’t spend too much time researching though.

“I’m not a big college basketball fan, but when March Madness comes along, people who don’t follow basketball all year can jump into it and have some fun,” he said.

Both Rand-Lewis, who picked Syracuse to go all the way, and Myerson have picked #1-seeded teams to take the tournament, but many focus on “bracket busters.”

“I believe in the underdog,” Katie Price ’12 said. “I like when the underdog wins because it mixes up people’s expectations.”

Price has never completed a bracket and joined an individual pool with friends from outside of school. She plans on submitting her bracket to her individual and Harvard-Westlake pools.

Noah Weinman ’12 and English teacher Adam Howard pick their teams based on feeling and having a hunch, they said. Howard submits two brackets, a dream one and a legitimate one. In his dream bracket, Howard always picks Texas (the East’s 11-seed) to win. In his real bracket, he has picked Missouri to win it all.

“I say this without any supporting statistics,” he said. “Hunch picks.”

Weinman’s methodology is almost totally random. “I don’t follow college basketball,” he said. “If I see a school, and it has an interesting team, I’ll usually pick it to win unless it’s 1 vs. 16 or 2 vs. 15 team.”

He will compete in the school bracket but only competes for fun and for the thrill of picking an unrealistic bracket.

“It’s great when you have that one upset in your favor,” Weinman said. “If you call that one major upset, it’s a great feeling.”

Weinman has selected the Wichita State Shockers, the fifth seed in the South, to win the tournament based on the team name and mascot.

“The only real hope is making the absurd bracket that has a one in trillion chance of being right,” he said.

Andrew Wallach ’13, who created a 35-member league on Yahoo.com, doesn’t pick the underdog as often as Weinman does but said that going with the top seeds isn’t a good bet either.

“A 5 against 12 matchup is the best to pick the underdog on,” he said. “Those 12 teams are always dangerous. I don’t know how they do it, but they always come ready to play”

The 12 seeds that have qualified so far are Virginia Commonwealth University, Harvard and Long Beach State.

Keeping that upset secret can be the secret to a bracket’s success, Myerson said.

“I’ll talk to [friends] about the bracket, but I won’t give away anything if I think I have anything,” he said.

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