Alternative NCAA tournament brackets

It’s now Thursday morning, which means many of you have already filled your NCAA tournament brackets and second-guessed yourself until your pens run dry. But if you’re a procrastinator — or if you just want a fresh start — here’s a different perspective.

One way to make your picks is to know a lot about college basketball. But as anyone who has ever played an office pool knows, sometimes not knowing anything is an even more effective strategy. Therefore, what could be better than a bracket-filling strategy that has absolutely nothing to do with hardwood?

Three suggested methods, and their results, are below. The only guarantee is that one of these brackets will outperform my “real” picks.

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“The Hot Hands”

Lots of pundits will talk about how important it is for teams to be hot at the right time (hence the support for Louisville and Michigan State). So why not choose your winners based on how hot they are? Don’t settle for the metaphorical sense of the word — actually choose the highest-temperature schools for each game:

NCAA_bracket_The_Hot_HandsI used the average April temperature, because that was the closest this source had to March (it’s not the most credible-looking website, but the data seems reasonable). For two second-round games in the East region (UNC-NC Central and Villanova-St. Joe’s), both schools are in the same weather-reporting area, so I broke the tie with a coin flip.

The left half of this bracket is, given the circumstances, startlingly reasonable. Louisiana-Lafayette and its average April temperature of 68 degrees, however, make the right half a little bit suboptimal from a basketball standpoint. (And if you thought the Midwest Region was loaded already, it’s even worse by this method — Texas and Arizona State, two of the four hottest campuses in the bracket, face off in the first round.)

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“White Houses Can’t Jump”

If meteorology isn’t your thing, try history instead. Our current Commander-in-Chief is a noted basketball fan, continuing a presidential tradition dating back to the days when Abe Lincoln was a fearsome shot-blocker in Midwestern pickup games. What could be more patriotic than choosing each winner based on the number of presidents produced by their state?

NCAA_bracket_White_Houses_Cant_JumpPresidents are allocated by birthplace, with the following tiebreakers: (1) If both teams’ states have the same number of presidents, the one with the closest campus to a presidential birth city advances. (2) If both schools are in states with no presidents, the one who joined the Union last (and has thus had fewer opportunities to produce a president) advances. (3) American and George Washington lose by default, because they aren’t located in a state. This might seem unfair to the latter, given that it’s actually named after a president, but it’ll have to take that up with Congress.

Manhattan in the championship game is a long shot; this bracket would’ve looked a bit better if Xavier had won its play-in game, as it would’ve reached the Final Four on the strength of Ohio’s seven presidents. Virginia wins the championship with eight, while Baylor benefits from the draw as the only West Region team with multiple leaders of the executive branch.

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“One Shining Moment of Area”

Or you can stick with something so simple it requires no coin flips or complicated tiebreakers: Proximity to the middle of the United States. According to Wikipedia, the (unofficial) geographic center of the contiguous U.S. is outside Lebanon, Kansas, giving us a Midwestern Final Four:

NCAA_bracket_One_Shining_Moment_Of_AreaI have to admit, I was hoping for Creighton and/or Wichita State to be slightly better, because then the predicted Final Four would have been totally normal. As it is, Wichita and Creighton get bounced by tough draws in the Round of 32, and this bracket relies on deep runs by Kansas State and Nebraska. But hey, similarly crazy things have happened in March.

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