Of Brackets and Races

Portions of the text below are taken from the prior entry “Madness and More Madness”

This post is a slight departure, as it focuses on the NCAA tournament and making a bracket.  I’ll be participating in an in-house tournament featuring various ChicagoNow bloggers.  But before you throw rotten vegetables at me for straying from horse racing, keep in mind that the popularity of the NCAA tournament and of filling out brackets borrows a lot from horse racing. And you were warned: I did mention before that the NCAA Tournament serves as a change of pace when Hawthorne as its dreariest.

Consider that….

  • Terms like “favorite”, “chalk”, and “upset” that are used to describe teams are used to describe horses.
  • College basketball has conference tournaments to determine the final field of 68. Horse racing has prep races (like the Illinois Derby, Rebel Stakes, Arkansas Derby) to determine its final field for the Kentucky Derby.
  • It’s a very popular thing to gamble on.  We’re looking at you, Mr. Office Pool creator.
  • Your goals are roughly the same. You try to predict an outcome given a number of different variables.
  • Watching past videos is helpful. Watching videos of past horse races or basketball games gives you a possible understanding of the future.

Now I admit that I don’t follow college basketball as intensely as horse racing, but I do stick to a few rules when making the bracket.  They are similar to rules I stick to when handicapping and wagering at the track.

1) Work backwards. What’s the result you want? Figure out what the result will be and work from it.  In horse racing, this is more along the lines of wager construction.

2) Make a plan. Once you have your result, what it does take?  Separate contenders from pretenders. This in racing is the hard nuts-and-bolts handicapping.

3) Don’t be afraid of being different. Differences of opinion are what make horse racing so fun and what make for great conversation about your bracket.  More importantly, if you have a good contender that you think can do some damage, don’t be afraid to use it.

4) Don’t be afraid to lose. Maybe it’s on a buzzer beater, maybe it’s on a team that chooses that game to be unable to hit the broad side of a barn.  You’re bound to have it happen.  Losses are going to happen.  And in your pool, maybe you lose to that person that can’t tell a fruit basket from a basketball. It happens. There’s next year for the NCAAs and plenty more chances at the track.

Amazing the similarities between horse racing and making NCAA brackets.  Perhaps you might enjoy doing one that you might do the other.  A good bracket may be the recipe to experimenting at Hawthorne or Arlington.

Teams going out early, round of 64: Memphis and Michigan.

Teams not expected to advance to the Sweet 16: California and Iowa State.

Final Four:  Saint Louis, Gonzaga, Miami (FL), Florida. Gonzaga over Miami for the title.

Good luck!

Filed under: horse racing, ponderings

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