March 19, 2022

I am playing the NCAA Men’s Tournament Challenge again this year.  Last year I filled out one bracket and then completed the bracket I found in my local paper.  This year I got excited and filled out five brackets online, as well as my hard copy.  The site allows each person to complete 25 brackets.  I stopped at five because I could no longer keep track of what I had predicted.  As the first round ended on Friday it did not seem to matter as I had losses in all six of my brackets.  I was comforted by the fact that in 10 of the 32 games the lower seed defeated the higher seeded team.  While many of these games were not considered upsets, there were two games where the 12 seed knocked off the 5 seed (common) and one where the 2 seed lost to a 15 (rare).  When I checked the stats, out of 17.3 million brackets, they all had at least one wrong prediction.

When I looked online, I found there have been 52 upsets by 12-seeds since the NCAA expanded the tournament brackets in 1985.  Going into 2022, the lower seed was 51-93 (35.42%).  That percentage went up again this year, as two of the four 12 seeds won round one games.  The average margin of victory in 2 verses 15 matchups since expansion has been just over 17 points per game, and that includes the eight times a 15 seed has beaten a 2 seed.  The games are not typically competitive, but the lower seed comes in knowing they have nothing to lose and everything to gain.  It happened again this weekend, as Saint Peter’s defeated a 2 seed Kentucky team many had picked to win it all.  There is always hope.

The only 1 seed to lose to a 16 happened in 2018, when the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) Retrievers defeated the Virginia Cavaliers and became an overnight sensation.  By the end of this weekend there will be 16 teams left in the brackets.  Of these 16, I potentially have 15 teams that could move on, and all my selections for the elite eight are playing well.  Even as I write, another 1 seed fell to an 8.  As always, it will be a long three weeks.  Maybe I should just go fishing.

THOUGHTS:  I enjoy picking tournament brackets even though I am not very good at it.  The other side of the tournament is the billions of dollars expected to be wagered by Americans.  The American Gaming Association estimates 45 million people could combine to wager $3.1 billion on the NCAA tournament through bracket pools and wagers with sportsbooks and friends.  The $3.1 billion is approximately three times more than was estimated bet on the 2022 Super Bowl.  I would bet most of these people were not very good at it either.  While a 1 can defeat a 16, the house will always win.  Do the work.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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