March Madness takes over
At NCAA tournament time, it's not whether you win or lose, it's how you fill out your brackets
BY CHUCK MARTIN | CMARTIN@ENQUIRER.COM
For college hoop fans, this is the most exciting time of the year - the time of the NCAA men's basketball tournament, which begins today and ends April 2. This is when we pull for the local and regional teams - Xavier, Miami, Kentucky, Ohio State, Indiana, Louisville, Wright State - as they compete for the national championship.
Even better, it's when we fill out the brackets in friendly betting pools, trying to predict which teams will win each round. By some estimates, as many as 10 percent of all Americans (including many women and some children) jump into a pool every March, making the basketball tournament second only to the Super Bowl in betting popularity.
Because there are often so many upsets in the tournaments, almost anyone can win. Sometimes a hunch or luck is more important in filling out the brackets than knowing the team's won-loss record or some other statistic. Which is why, for fun, many come up with wacky ways for picking their winners. Maybe this another reason they call it "March Madness."
THE MASCOT METHOD
Ron Minges of White Oak usually fills out a "serious" bracket - one in which he tries to put his basketball knowledge to use - and another, "not-so-serious" bracket. For this one, he employs the "fierce mascot" principle: The mascot he thinks would win a knock-down, drag-out fight will win the basketball game. Minges, a Realtor, picks cats over bird mascots, and dogs, wolves and other canines over cat mascots - although this year, he does have a special feeling about the Memphis Tigers. Minges especially likes teams with bulldog mascots - Gonzaga and Butler.
And who does he choose if the team has a really unusual mascot, such as the No. 1-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes?
"If they're playing a team that has a panther mascot, then I might say the panthers would climb all over the trees (Buckeyes)," he says.
The beauty of his and other crazy bracket methods, of course, is you make up the rules as you go.
THE LIVABLE CITIES METHOD
Listen to John Meyer's system. For his "fun" brackets, he also chooses teams based on mascots. Meyer, an investment accountant who lives in Mount Washington, is an Ohio State fan. How could he possibly choose the Buckeyes - the mighty trees - to beat anyone?.
"Well, maybe the tree's nuts are poisonous," Meyer reasons. (Actually, if you eat enough of them, buckeye nuts are toxic.)
Meyer guesses he'll devote more time to researching these brackets than his pool choices based on sports sense. His wife, Sarah, chose teams last year based on cities where she'd like to live.
"I did pretty well until the Final Four," she says.
Evidently, Sarah has no desire to live in any of last year's Final four towns: Gainesville (University of Florida), Los Angeles (UCLA), Baton Rouge (LSU) or Fairfax, Va. (George Mason University).
TERRAPIN SOUNDS GOOD
Pharmacist Carrie Christofield of Fort Mitchell chooses her winners based on mascots - but not necessarily the meanest mascots. Christofield, who admits she doesn't follow college basketball closely, almost always chooses the Maryland Terrapins over other teams - and yes, she knows a terrapin is a turtle. There's just something about the sound of "terrapin,' she says.
Christofield relies on her husband, Joe, the city clerk of Florence, to research team mascots for her. He is somewhat of a sports wonk, who studies team records and other statistics. Joe has been a little perturbed in the past, she says, when her brackets have beaten his studied choices.
BEACHES AND CHEERLEADERS
Dave Tryling of Loveland won his company's office pool last year using a wacky and slightly complicated selection method. Tryling, who is partner of Acutek in Evendale, prefers fierce - definitely not cute - mascots. But he also favors teams from states with beaches, such as Florida and South Carolina. Color is another consideration: Blue is his favorite uniform color, but he'll quickly pick teams from "red" or Republican states over those from "blue," or Democrat states.
Team cheerleaders are a criterion as well, but he won't elaborate.
A UC grad, Tryling is one of those pool players who claims he could care less about basketball, but was coerced by employees to play the brackets.
"He did check to see how he was doing every day during the tournament last year," says his business partner, Sue Rodgers of Mason.
Tryling says several serious basketball fans at his company were upset he won the $3 pool pot last year.
GONZAGA IS COOL
Susan Collier of Anderson Township had the same experience several years ago when she won her company's $200 pool. Sports fans were mad because Collier used a loosey-goosey, mostly intuitive method.
She loves pale blue uniforms, so she picked North Carolina.
Her son likes Florida, so she chose the Gators.
She used to live in Pittsburgh, but hates the Steelers. So Collier, a medical sales rep-turned-Realtor, never picked a team from the Steel City.
"Oh, and I would pick some teams just based on their names," she says. "Like Gonzaga. That's a cool name, don't you think?"
THE BAD SEEDS
Talk about your long shots: When John Kahles of North College Hill plays his family's basketball pool, he picks the four 16th (lowest) seeded teams to make the final four round. Kahles, CEO and president of Metcut Research in Oakley and Forest Park, doesn't care that he probably never will win this contest. It's all in fun.
The rest of his family, including his wife, Linda, their three children, their spouses and four grandchildren, don't care because Kahles puts up the $1,000 pool money every year.
But you can bet if Kahles ever wins with four 16 seeds, someone will hear about it.
Finally, there's Karen Carter of Erlanger, who tells how she and her daughter, Michelle Hilliar of Florence, came up with a peculiar method for choosing bracket winners 10 years ago. The women wrote team names on paper, wadded up two for each bracket and threw them against the wall. The name on the ball of paper that bounced back closest to them was their winner.
Carter swears no alcohol consumption was involved in this exercise.
She never won with this off-the-wall method, but Carter remembers how much she and her daughter enjoyed the time together. So this week, they tried it again.
In their championship game, the women have Kansas defeating Michigan State. This is hard to stomach for such loyal Kentucky fans - but that pick, at least, doesn't sound terribly wacky.