Millions of people, from diehard fans to those who know nothing about the sport, fill out brackets every March. While office or school pools generally exist as a way to promote social interaction between its employees or students, most people know the real reason for these pools: to exploit your colleagues lack of knowledge about the sport in order to benefit financially.
Even though the NCAA does not officially condone gambling on the March Madness tournament, people from across the continent seem to do it anyways. Most pools generally have anywhere from 10 to 100s of people putting money into one big pot, with the winnings being distributed evenly among a certain number of people.
Because of the extreme unpredictability of the tournament, however, it’s very tough to come even close to picking a perfect bracket. In fact, the chances of doing so are around one in nine quintillion. And that’s in a good year, without any major upsets. Basically, a year completely unlike this one.
In a tournament filled with upsets, many brackets were busted before the first weekend was even over. Kansas, the number one seed in the entire tournament, projected by over 40 per cent of users to win the entire thing, flaked out in the second round, while Georgetown, expected to reach the Elite Eight at worst, fell in the first.
While common sense would dictate the top two seeds in each region (there are four regions) would reach the Elite Eight, just four of them, Duke, Kentucky, West Virginia and Kansas State, did. Many other upsets also filled the board as two five-seeds, Michigan State and Butler, managed to reach the Final Four.
Butler, whose home court in Indianapolis is just six miles away from Lucas Oil Stadium, where the Final Four and finals were held, became the first-ever team to play in the Final Four in its home city. Their story is remarkably similar to the 1986 film Hoosiers, in which a small-town team from Hickory, Indiana beats remarkable odds to reach the state championship.
While Butler is far better known then their silver screen counterparts, by upsetting the top two seeds from their region (Syracuse and Kansas State), they have effectively become the Cinderella story of the tournament. On the other side of the bracket, however, they faced an extremely tough matchup in heavily-favoured and widely-hated Duke. The Blue Devils, the only one-seed to reach the Final Four, are one of the most detested teams in college basketball, largely due to their continuous regular-season dominance, much like baseball’s New York Yankees. The finals matchup, held last night, became a virtual David versus Goliath matchup, with Duke’s roster of six McDonald’s All-Americans (essentially High School All-Stars) looking to crush small-school Butler.
With all the upsets of the tournament, both major and minor, it’s a wonder how anyone was able to forsee such an unlikely Final Four. Many had predicted two-seed West Virginia and one-seed Duke, but how could someone honestly believe that two five-seeds would make it? Shockingly, some people actually did. Out of more than 5 million ESPN entires, just over 10,000 managed to select Butler to reach the finals. Out of these 10,000, or so people, just two users remain, tied atop the standings.
“Mattwalker34” and “big_holsch” would have had a perfect Elite Eight had they not missed out an Ohio State (who lost to Tenessee). Still, they have defied odds and correctly predicted all four Final Four teams, as well as the two finals teams. The two brackets have differed slightly, however, with Holsch going for the big Butler upset and Walker going for the almost inevitable Duke victory.
The best part of the tournament? The fact that nothing is inevitable.
Even though Duke should’ve theoretically hammered Butler last night, the same could’ve been said for the various favourites that lost early, some to embarrassing teams. While Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski will be celebrating this morning, Butler coach Brad Stevens will sit sulking with millions of others wondering simply, “what if?”
The game finished minutes before press deadline, with Duke shutting down Butler, 61-59. Kyle Singler led the way with 19 points and was named the tournament’s outstanding player.