NCAA Selection Committee Announces Pairings For March Madness
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
For all you college basketball fans, time to get to work and start making your picks. The bracket is out for the Men's Division One NCAA Basketball Tournament. We all know that as March Madness, and men, women, children, probably even pets bound for YouTube fame are trying to figure out the chances of a nine seed beating an eight, or whether teams wearing green uniforms win more than blue ones.
Plus, there's extra madness this year thanks to a contest offering a billion dollars if you predict every single game correctly.
NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman joins us to talk about the science of filling out March Madness brackets. Good morning.
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Yeah. Hi, Renee. I will be right with you. I just have to finish something here. Just one sec. OK, Colorado will be heads, Pit will be tails. It is - tails.
GOLDMAN: I will fill in Pit. OK
MONTAGNE: It has come to that. Flip a coin, right?
MONTAGNE: OK. So we'll get to your scientific strategies. But first a quick word about yesterday's Selection Sunday when they unveiled the bracket. So is this year worthy of hand-wringing?
GOLDMAN: Well, yeah. It always is. There were the usual head scratchers. The selection committee didn't exactly reward teams that are playing very well right now, such as Michigan State and defending champ Louisville, which got number four seed - those are lower than expected. Kentucky got an eight seed. And yesterday Kentucky nearly beat the tournament's overall number one seed, Florida.
Now, Renee, despite the ground rules, you have to remember, once the tournament actually starts, which will be tomorrow with preliminary games, the action on the court usually corrects any perceived deficiencies in the selection process.
MONTAGNE: OK, Tom. Can we get to the billion-dollar contest now?
GOLDMAN: You bet.
MONTAGNE: Alright, the prize coming from Quicken Loans and insured by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway; not a great chance of winning from what I understand. It's a one in 9.2 quintillion.
MONTAGNE: People are though giving it a try.
GOLDMAN: Oh yeah. You know, it's limited to the first 15 million entrants. It may already be up. You know, you've got math whizzes working overtime on this using applied linear algebra. You got to think though that Warren Buffett knows full well how wide open this tournament is and that he's not going to have to pay this money. It's going to be very tough to come up with the perfect bracket - linear algebra or no.
Yes, there are four number one seeds that are favored to get through to the Final Four. But all of them have some, you know, weakness - there are no uber teams. Bill Self, the head coach of number two seed Kansas was quoted as saying, There are more good teams and less great teams. The difference between a two seed and a seven or eight seed is as narrow as it's ever been.
MONTAGNE: Well, then setting aside for a moment that coin flip, can you give us some guidance on maybe getting closer to a perfect bracket and that billion dollars?
GOLDMAN: You don't like my coin flip. OK, so...
MONTAGNE: No, I love it.
GOLDMAN: OK, so a few stats that might help. In first round, don't pick a 16 seed to pull of the stunning upset of a number one - never happened since they started keep records in 1985. A number two seed, it's a bit more vulnerable. In last two tournaments you've had three number 15 seeds have beaten number two's.
Now, here is one. The upset special, as many people know, is the number 12 seed over number five in first round. In last five tournaments, half of the number five seeds went down in the opening round. So beware - Cincinnati, Oklahoma, St. Louis, those are all the five seeds this time.
And stick with those 12 seeds after the upset. According to RJ Bell of PreGame.com, they win nearly half the time in round two.
MONTAGNE: Thanks, Tom.
GOLDMAN: You're welcome.
MONTAGNE: I feel much better about my chances now. NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman.