Is There a Method to the Madness?

Is There a Method to the Madness?

Attempting to understand the wonder that is March Madness

By: Meghan O’Reilly


You ruined my bracket #21, don’t give me that look…


So now that the weekend is over. March. 99% of all brackets are completely destroyed as the tournament moves into the sweet sixteen. Oh, and not to mention you’re out at least 10 bucks…so here is what you should have been doing instead of spending countless hours looking at box scores.


The odds are better that you would be struck by lightning (1 in 960,000) or become a professional basketball player yourself (1 in 3,333) than have a winning or getting close to a perfect March Madness bracket. Seriously, your money is better spent buying PowerBall tickets (1in 292 million) too because the odds of having a perfect bracket are 1 in 9.2 quintillion (that is a real number, shockingly). But yet every year there is someone who manages to get very close to a perfect bracket and walks away a winner. Although there is no record of a perfect bracket after all of these years, there are some people who still win big. Every year it is estimated that Americans spend $9 million on March madness brackets. The only thing more bizarre than the money pit known as march madness are the ways that people select their brackets. 40 million Americans will fill out one of these brackets this year. That means there are probably 40 million different philosophies when it comes to bracketology. So instead of spending hours watching games and checking scores, we took a look at some more unconventional approaches. Turns out all this time you might have been under estimating the power of the color of a jersey or the type of mascot.



There is nothing that screams “Dummies First Bracket” than filling out a march madness bracket strictly based on your favorite colors. However…there actually might be merit to this method. If your favorite colors happens to be blue and or white, you might just be in luck this year! Over the past 85 years, blue and white have done extremely well in the tournament! Over the past 12 years, every team to win a national championship has had some shade of blue in their uniform! Pretty cool, right? I personally tried to use this method on one of my brackets but ended up being completely biased on my selections. Blue and Orange and Sky blue and white seemed to make it unreasonably far because I knew those teams were decent enough to keep going in the tournament. However, considering the last 12 years champions have worn some form of blue uniforms, I feel pretty okay about those selections. See the figure below to check out how well your favorite color has been doing since 1930. My condolences if your favorite color is brown, better luck next year.



Everyone loves the story of the comeback team, the underdog, the team that no one thinks can make it but somehow has a breakthrough in the tournament. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of underdogs that end big dogs chances at a national championship (and ruin your bracket, thanks Yale) Historically speaking though, if you have a team in the national championship that is the underdog, DO NOT PICK THEM! The underdog has only won 5 times out of the last 30… that’s 16%…yikes. I’ve always loved an underdog story but considering I also like to win, I won’t be picking them for the national championship probably ever.


So I’m not saying I endorse this method of selecting a bracket but after this year, I’m willing to try almost anything. I laughed when I first found out about this method of selecting teams…but it turns out that since 2000, 10 of the past 15 winners have actually had more syllables… so maybe there is a method here. Really the only team to ruin it over the past 15 years was Duke, it’s kind of hard to beat that one syllable school. **Note: If you choose to select your bracket this way, I would recommend doing such not at the office or in class because clapping is necessary to ensure accuracy**



This has easily been one of the most popular methods over the past few years. When in doubt- let the mascots fight it out..? For example, hedge your bets on who would win against a Blue Devil and a Badger? Your guess is probably as good as mine but according to the mascot choosing guidelines , the Blue Devil would come out on top. Yes, someone has really gone through ever team and analyzed each mascot. For example, Dan Levy sized up the competition between the Badgers and the Panthers, “A badger is a little omnivore with a bad attitude, like a wolverine or a fat weasel. A panther is a large, swift, scary cat. Advantage Panthers.” Over the past 6 years, 83% of the mascots that would have “won in a fight” also won the tournament. Just don’t ask me what would happen if an Orange and Shocker (giant bail of wheat) met in the national championship…


Screen shot 2016-03-21 at 12.28.13 AM

Location to championship

Although this may not help with your early round predictions, when it comes down to the final four or championship game- it may not be a bad idea to side with the team that is traveling farther.  Over the past 8 years, every team but 1 has won (2012 National Championship game- when Kentucky beat Kansas in New Orleans, Louisiana) Coincidence? Most likely, however, if it came down to a coin toss in the national championship, my armature opinion would tell you to choose the team closer to Houston, Texas this year. My only theory on this is- there must be something really good in that airplane food.


All in all, march madness is a time when it is truly anyone’s game, and that’s why people love it so much! We loose money every year, waste countless hours analyzing box scores and even sometimes jeopardize friendships all on the quest for the perfect bracket. These oddities may be coincidence but to someone who likes stats, they seem to be statistically proven more so than a computer or expert ranking. So remember, go blue, always pick the scarier mascot, distance is better and it’s probably still not a good idea to pick the underdog.

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