March Madness begins this week, which means that whatever you’re supposed to do at your job is going to suffer, and no one’s going to notice (within reason, don’t be slacking off on the important things) because they’ll all be filching discrete looks at their own brackets whenever the opportunity is afforded to them. It’s part of the common truce that keeps our society going: We all agree to abide by the same laws, we all agree to use a common currency, and we all allow for freedom in bracketology.
Indeed, if we weren’t able to go about our brackets as we intended, then we would have devolved into something awful, and when the NCAA is already a racket making millions off of unpaid labor, a situation astutely outlined by John Oliver way back when, we’ll take all the distractions we can get. To that end, while some people fill out their NCAA bracket in order to win their office pool, doesn’t that seem a little bit stale at this point? Sure, winning is better than losing, but the enduring story of March Madness is the unpredictability of it all. There’s a reason Warren Buffett offers up billions of dollars for getting the whole tournament entirely right in advance, and it’s not because it’s easy.
Maybe you don’t follow college hoops at all, and are doing your office pool out of obligation, or a sense of duty. Maybe you accidentally said you were in and $20 later decided that you should probably fill one out if they’ve already got your money. Maybe you’re sick of spending hours Googling the mid-seeded teams that no one besides alumni care about, only to have those teams totally ruin your bracket when they don’t pull off the “obvious” upset. Here are three ways to fill out your bracket instead. You’ll have more fun.
1. Make an anagram out of your bracket
In case you need a refresher on what an anagram is, it’s a rearranged order of letters for a given word. In this case, you’d be looking at the different schools, going vertically down the list, and concocting new words and phrases. Do one for each round, starting with the second (the real second round, not the “official” first round, which is named the second round for spurious reasons). This allows you a whole new way of evaluating teams — the “K” from Kentucky might represent a “better” NCAA basketball team, but it’s not nearly as useful as the “H” from Hamp/Man. It also means you’re always betting against Xavier, which is probably a healthy basketball decision.
2. Compare mascots
Full disclosure: I cribbed this from one of the women who works at my dentist’s office, and she was talking about the NFL, but the point still stands. If you run into a team that you don’t know anything about (looking at you, Valparaiso), consider its mascot, and how that mascot would fair against the one from the competing school. Not only will this alert you to the painful number of avian representatives in the NCAA, but you’ll be able to parse the finer points of life while you determine whether a Mountaineer could best a Bull in a fair fight on a neutral field.
3. Evaluate each school’s worth to you
Does that sound needlessly vague? It should. For example, when you look over the official NCAA bracket, it’s easy to get lost in the intricacies of program history, coaching trees, player eligibility, and the spectre of the NBA draft, particularly if you’re pretty sure you’re just going to lose the pool to someone from HR anyway. Instead, we suggest finding out things about the school and its relationship to you as a person. For example, if you have a near and dear friend or relative who went to UNC, you have a moral obligation to predict a first-round loss to Duke. If your boss is in the office pool, and you know he or she has an alma mater in the race, maybe give that team a cursory win that you might otherwise ignore.
The Tournament is set to begin on March 16.