Wednesday, March 14, 2012

3-14-12: A Slightly Different Approach to March Madness Brackets

This isn’t novel in any way, but I am thinking about setting up a tournament bracket group/league for next year’s March Madness with a different reward system than usually employed.

Traditionally, the full pay-out goes to the winner or the top three winners based on their tournament selection results (total points based on games won, etc.). Usually it’s money (I never gamble on sports out of principle: I don’t like losing money). But there are some good humored leagues that reward through something like donuts or coffee or something non-monetary. My suggestion works for either, but is non-monetary.

Instead of rewarding the top score, I’d have the top finisher and the bottom finisher buy donuts for all players. Each would buy, say, a dozen donuts for the whole group. This would do three things:

  1. Force people to make risky picks to not win outright, but within reason – nobody wants to finish last if they have to buy donuts AND deal with their colleagues’ grief
  2. Demonstrate some serious game theory. Would you pick “chalk” and hope for an upset so you don’t finish first? How similar would the brackets look?
  3. Allow for discussion of the tournament over donuts!

Like most people, I don’t follow college basketball until tournament time. The only team I pay attention to is UNCW, my younger sister’s alma mater, and they haven’t played in the big tournament in several years. But I can make some reasonably sound guesses that should keep me within that comfortable mid-range. I’m guessing, with a little research, most people can get somewhere near there.

I’m guessing this model would result in more conservative brackets, but overall more consistent performance across the board. Depending on the group, I’d think the range of scores would be smaller than in traditional “winner take all” formats. I have no idea if the average score would be any better, though. Again, I’m sure this is already used in hundreds of brackets, most of which are probably run by economists.

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