If you’re at all like us here at RTC, filling out your bracket is a anxiety-ridden experience that involves countless hours of research, googling, calculating, checking, flip-flopping, ripping, ruminating, stressing, and ultimately conceding. From the moment the brackets are released at 6 pm ET on Sunday night until well after midnight on Wednesday/Thursday morning, we’re usually no better off in terms of the key toss-up games and later rounds than we were ten seconds after the matchups were announced.
You’d think with all the time we put into this sport year-round, we’d have a better initial feel for many of the matchups. But therein lies the problem. We have so much information in our heads and at our fingertips that inevitably paralysis by analysis takes hold, and we have to resort to other tried-and-true methods to pick a damn winner. These methods could include, but are not limited to, playing “home” favorites (Baylor over Duke), picking on league strength (Louisville over Cal), being contrarian (UTEP over Butler), or preferring experienced coaches (Minnesota over Xavier). Usually, though, late on Wednesday night, mere hours before the early tipoffs of the first round games on Thursday, we go with our gut. Our gut, of course, meaning we pick up the phone and start calling people. Because, as we all know, groupthink is always the best sort of think.
A typical conversation goes something like this:
RTC: You ready to talk about this?
Friend of RTC: (long sigh) Ready as I’m going to be. Bring it.
RTC: Dude, how are you liking that Florida-BYU game?
Friend of RTC: (even longer sigh) Man, this year is the hardest year we’ve ever had in terms of picking these damn first round games. (said every year)
RTC: Right, but what do you see happening there?
Friend of RTC: BYU is going to win… Florida is overrated and Fredette is going to light them up. That is, unless Donovan figures out that he is the only player that can beat them and actually convinces Boynton and Walker to play some defense. But the last time I saw the Gators play defense, Joakim Noah was waving pompoms around and screaming like a banshee. So, BYU. That’s the clear pick there.
RTC: (scribbling down Florida into the second round) Yeah, yeah, I think that’s right.
And so it goes. On and on through every toss-up game until we get to the end and absolutely despise the huge steaming wad of a bracket that we’ve created. We’re talking absolute, unadulterated loathing here. How on earth can any self-respecting blogger of the sport have Villanova in the Final Four again — that team has been terrible lately. Or Kentucky and all its NBA-bound stars losing to the likes of plodding Wisconsin in the Sweets — we must be out of our minds.
So maybe the decision that the NCAA made this week to put meaningful games into the Play-In Opening First Round will help people like us, the folks who have trouble making bracket decisions without first seeing every possible word and stat written about the games. You see, the only way we think that the ubiquitous office and online bracket pools will reasonably continue to work now is if the new deadline is set for Tuesday’s tipoff (presumably at around 7 pm ET). Of the roughly 90 hours from the unveiling of the bracket to Thursday’s first game start, nearly half of those (42) have been shaved off. This sea change in available bracket analysis time will require focus and discipline on the part of the uber-analyzers (us) and absolutely no change whatsoever for those who actually win office pools (everyone else).
We’re making a big assumption here, though. We’re assuming that the standard office pool format will necessarily change to a Tuesday night deadline so as to incorporate those three extra games (two of which may actually impact the later rounds). It’s worth a quick look to see what the options are as we see them for the pool developers (and keep in mind, we’re not that creative when it comes to this stuff, so offer your suggestions in the comments).
Option 1 – Office Pools Incorporate First Round Games