The student-run community news site of Vermont State University - Johnson

Basement Medicine

The student-run community news site of Vermont State University - Johnson

Basement Medicine

The student-run community news site of Vermont State University - Johnson

Basement Medicine

March madness? You bet!


Happy spring! There are those who feel that the end of March is the best time to be a sports fan in the U.S., and I would be hard-pressed to disagree with them. This is because the NCAA College Basketball Tournament – otherwise known as “March Madness” – is held every year at this time.  And even if the first thing you think of when you hear the term “hard press” isn’t a defensive strategy in basketball but rather a Pokémon move or a type of apple cider or even a hair-straightening technique, you too can enjoy following either or both the biggest men’s and women’s annual college hoops tournaments in the land.

While I don’t normally encourage betting, for maximum enjoyment I do recommend entering at least one March Madness pool at least once in your life. It’s not hard to do and it really makes the three weeks of the tournament an exciting time indeed. Although it’s too late for this year, since the tournament is already underway, the great thing about filling out a bracket – which is just a way of choosing which of the 68 teams who make the tournament will advance in any given round – is that you really don’t need to know much at all about basketball. Just like in those Super Bowl pools where some of the questions are Will the opening coin toss turn out to be heads or tails? and What color Gatorade will be dumped on the winning coach after the game?, everyone – from the sports know-it-all to the sports novice – has the chance to do as well as anyone else by the time the final whistle sounds and a champion is crowned.

Perhaps the best thing about entering a pool is that it can connect you in an exciting way to friends and family members who also choose to play. And if you don’t want to risk any of your hard-earned cash you can still fill out a bracket and enter a pool – either online or one devised by someone you know – and take your shot at winning bragging rights for a year.

However, if you do decide to try your luck, you should know that renowned investor Warren Buffett used to offer a billion dollars to anyone who picked all the winning teams correctly all the way through to the end. As you can imagine, Buffett is no dummy. He knows that achieving a perfect bracket is virtually impossible. In fact, the odds are over one in nine quintillion – that’s a nine with 18 zeroes after it! – against your creation of a perfect bracket. If you have some basketball knowledge, the odds do jump to one in 120.2 billion; nevertheless, if these odds don’t scare you then you must have failed math. In short, there is no record of anyone anywhere ever achieving perfection.

To put the odds in perspective, your chances of becoming president of the U.S. are reportedly are one in ten million. (Not to mention the odds of a current quarterback for the NY Jets becoming vice president, but that’s another story!) Also, you’re way, way more likely to be struck by lightning or killed by a shark than to construct a perfect bracket.

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A few people in recent years have done exceedingly well, though. The longest (verifiable) streak of correct picks in a March Madness bracket is 49, a mark that was established in 2019. That year, a man from Ohio correctly predicted the entire NCAA tournament into the Sweet Sixteen – the last sixteen teams remaining – something never seen before.

And in 2023 the last verifiably perfect men’s tournament bracket busted when 16th-seed Fairleigh Dickinson University shocked number one-seed Purdue — only the second time a 16 beat a one in men’s history. That came on the 25th game played last year.

While we’re on the topic of interesting tournament facts, you should know that only one school has captured both the men’s and women’s championships in the same year. Those were the teams from the University of Connecticut, both of which won their respective titles in 2004 and again in 2014. Does this mean they are due again in 2024? No one can tell you that for sure, but bear in mind that the UConn school mascot is a husky. And teams with mascots that are dogs historically hold the best record over those with cats, birds, bears, and all other animals (except mythical creatures). So, no bones about it, this is something to consider!

Here’s another fun fact to ponder: did you know that vasectomy appointments see a spike during the three weeks of March Madness? Yes, it’s not only the basketball nets that get cut during this time of year. Apparently, many men who are thinking of getting the procedure feel that it’s hip to get snipped when you can recuperate afterwards by sitting around watching a ton of basketball games!  

Finally, speaking of smart tips, here are a couple for you if you do decide to fill out a March Madness bracket next year:

1. Pick your “Final Four” teams first – Bracket point systems are usually structured by which round is being played, with the opportunity to earn more points in later rounds than in earlier ones. In other words, most of the points you can earn will occur towards the end of the tournament. This means you should try to figure out which teams will make it through the most rounds, and this is where seeding is important. Try to include at least three teams seeded numbers one through three in their various regions to make it through to the last couple of rounds, (i.e., the semi-finals and the finals).

2. In the first round at the start of the tournament, pick a 12 seed to win over a five seed. An upset like this happens almost every year! (But be sure not to pick TOO many upsets over the course of your bracket, since they occur less than a quarter of the time. Experts say that picking from 10-16 upsets overall is probably your best strategy.)

And finally…

3. …remember to relax and enjoy! After all, a lot of this is just plain luck. And the one who truly wins at the end of the day is the one who had the most fun during the course of the play!

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About the Contributor
Russ Weis
Russ Weis, Staff Writer, Copy Editor
Russ Weis has taught Writing, Education, and other classes on the Johnson campus for over twenty years. He loves wordplay, (and is known in student circles as a bit of a weis guy), and nothing gives him greater pleasure than to be able to work (and play) in our rural academic community. Besides reading and writing, he also loves sports, including skiing, soccer, tennis, and, most recently, pickleball.