This Is (March) Madness

I sit here staring at spreadsheets, brackets, survivor strategies…all of it. I’ve been on a nonstop podcast binge of nothing but college basketball and gambling. All listened to at 2x speed.

I’m the guy who can tell you the exact expected win percentages of every team in the NCAA men’s bracket, for every round, based off an algorithm using both advanced analytics and human polling, factoring in travel distance even. I’m the guy who can tell you the point spread, within a point or two, of just about every potential matchup before the spreads are released.

I’m the guy who can tell you the Murray State Racers score 16.3 points more a game at home than they do on the road. I’m the guy who can tell you Bryant’s (Yes, Bryant) Peter Kiss is the leading scorer in the tournament at 25.1 points per game, but that it is also mostly due to volume as he shoots just a 50.3 effective field goal percentage, which is actually fourth on his own team amongst the starters. I can tell you Wright State plays zone defense on 20 percent of possessions, tops in the tournament.

I’m the guy who has a survivor strategy plotted out by each round. I can tell you Wyoming likes to post up their point guard. I can tell you the Akron Zips is an ironic name this year as they run the slowest pace in the tournament at 62.1 possessions per game. I can tell you there are four lower seeds who are actually favored by oddsmakers to win their opening round game. I will go on TV later today and for an hour sound like I know what is going to happen.

I have things like this at my disposal:

Just look at it.

I can tell you all of this. And I can also tell you that all that knowledge will go out the window at the first tip.

This is the beauty of the the next few weeks of college basketball. What has happened and what should happen are only tangentially related in the most thrilling exhibit of one-and-doneness we have come up with since the gladiator days.

Despite all of the above knowledge, I am no more likely to beat Grandma Pam in the office pool who picks teams because of the mascot. I am no more likely to outlast Cheerleader Betty in the volleyball team survivor pool fundraiser who is picking based on schools she would like to attend.

I’ll be even more dumbfounded than them when Montana State hits 11 threes against a stingy Texas Tech defense or Purdue decides to sit on the ball in halfcourt and goes 7 minutes without a field goal. It won’t make sense. And yet it happens every year.

And I am here for all of it. Also, hey, invite me to your pool. I’ll probably lose.

In one of the most famous scenes of 300, Xerxes’ messenger cries out “This is blasphemy, this is madness.” King Leonidas replies “This is Spaaaarrta”, kicking him down a giant well.

Sorry Leo, this is not Sparta. Sparta has nothing on the NCAA tournament. THIS.IS.MADNESS.

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