How to fill out a March Madness bracket
Struggling with your picks for this year’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament? UChicago scholars share uncommon strategies for making selections.
What should you do if you’ve been invited to join a March Madness pool but don’t know anything about the teams—or about college basketball?
First, some basics. From mid March through the first week of April, 68 men’s college basketball teams from conferences across the country compete in the annual NCAA Division I* tournament, commonly referred to as March Madness.
Yesterday was Selection Sunday, when NCAA officials release an official bracket (pdf) that shows which teams will compete in the tournament, along with their rankings and initial matchups. Fans form betting pools, filling out brackets by guessing which team will win of each of the 67 total games.
Or you could pick the team with the superior astronomy (or physics) department, as Rocky Kolb, dean of the Division of Physical Sciences, likes to do: “It hasn’t worked yet, but I am hopeful this year.”
*UChicago basketball plays in NCAA Division III.
Associate Professor, Medicine
Faculty Affiliate, Sleep Research Center
Assistant Dean, Scholarship and Discovery, Pritzker School of Medicine
One study shows that with more sleep, college basketball players have 9 percent higher free throw percentages, and 9 percent higher 3-point field goal percentages. Given this evidence plus the grueling schedule of these athletes, in my medical opinion, I would definitely recommend not picking the team that travels across the most time zones and is at risk for jet lag. Based on this, a team from the central time zone is best.
Helen A. Regenstein Distinguished Service Professor
Director, Stevanovich Institute on the Formation of Knowledge
In ancient Greece, the temple of Apollo at Delphi bore the inscription Meden Agan (μηδὲν ἄγαν) — “Nothing in excess.” Similarly, the doctrine of the Golden Mean was viewed as the key to success in personal life, health, career, and everything else.
Therefore, each team’s collective
- amount of alcohol consumed annually
- $ per year spent on steak annually
must be measured, and the teams that fall in the middle range selected.
Robert P. Gwinn Professor of Economics
- Efficient markets push you toward index funds and higher seeds.
- Don't pick UChicago.
Faculty Director, Microbiome Center
Professor, Department of Surgery at the University of Chicago Medicine
Senior Scientist (Adjunct), Marine Biological Laboratory
Group Leader, Microbial Ecology at Argonne National Laboratory
I would look into how the teams’ players interact. The teams with more physical interaction will increase the number of bacteria that they share, and this in turn could create a stronger sense of empathy and teamwork between them (we see this in animals). Therefore, I would say do some background on the teams and check out how often they physically interact with each other.
Library Director and University Librarian
Edward H. Levi Distinguished Service Professor of Law
As anyone versed in the law knows, nothing in the law is arbitrary. It is all about logic and reason. Therefore, a lawyer who wants a random way of make choices would have to move beyond the law and consult an economist.
Senior Lecturer, Mathematics
I know nothing about college basketball, so March Madness really isn't on my radar. However, a little digging on the web led me to some work done at Davidson College, which seems to have the potential to give great results. A few simple mathematical choices will generate a ranking that you can use to create your bracket.