Behind the Madness: how Wilson picks brackets

Noah Gross

As we head into the second weekend of the 2019 March Madness tournament, it is worth taking a look into some of the strategies used by participants in the inaugural Wilson March Madness bracket pool.

With three freshman stars, Duke was listed as an overwhelming favorite following the release of the bracket. Out of the 120 participants in the Wilson pool, 50 chose the Blue Devils as their champion. “Duke has O.G. Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett,” said junior Maximo Lanza Raguso, who is currently in fourth place. “They are just ‘tuff.’” Assistant Principal Kendrick Hawkins also chose Duke. “I’m a lifelong Duke fan,” he explained.

Not everyone picked Duke, though. Mass media teacher Kadesha Bonds explained why she chose the University of Michigan as her champion. “One sole reason. It’s because Tom Brady graduated from there. Die-hard [New England Patriots] fan for life and that’s why I chose Michigan.” She added, “It would make me really happy. I would be like ‘yessss!’ Because I know it would make Tom Brady really happy too.”

Assistant Principal Gregory Bargeman chose the University of North Carolina (UNC). “I have been a UNC fan for years and I am a UNC alum. I think they really turned their game around, beat Duke twice, and almost beat them a third time. I think we are the number-one team in the country.”

University of Virginia alum Travis Hartberger took the opposite approach. He picked with his head, not his heart. “In the past UVA hasn’t performed too well in the tournament.” However, he still admitted, “It does hurt my heart to pick UVA to lose.” Hartberger ultimately chose Duke to be his champion.
March Madness is famed for being unpredictable. The odds of filling out a perfect bracket are one in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 (that’s 9.2 quintillion). But you don’t have to be perfect to win a pool, you just have to be more accurate than everyone else. This is where the strategy (or luck) comes in.

Lanza’s strategy actually was sufficiently thought-out. “I checked the points per game for each team and chose the team with more points per game.” So did junior Aaron Bartlett, who is currently in second place. “My basic principle is that defense is how you get upsets and being the best offense is how you win a championship.”

English teacher Jennifer McLaughlin explained, “I foolishly listened to someone else. I don’t know anything about college basketball this year. I haven’t watched a college basketball game in about three years and I thought it would be smart to talk to somebody who has watched college basketball this year.” She is currently in 72nd place. “That has not been a winning decision for me.”

Bonds added, “I just weighed [the games] out. I thought Gonzaga sounded really cool and they’re purple.” Gonzaga is actually blue and white. “There was never any rhyme or reason on my picks,” she continued.

There are also other fun ways to make selections. Social studies teacher Aaron Besser said, “When in doubt pick the funniest mascot.” This year the University of California Irvine Anteaters were a popular upset pick.

Sophomore Zoe Johnson is currently at the top of the leaderboard. “I have been watching college basketball all season and saw Gonzaga beat Duke earlier in the season. I figured if they replayed each other they would have a good chance in winning. I also chose a lot of the 5 vs.12 upsets because they are super common,” she explained.

One commonality between the pool participants is the enticement of the Chick-fil-A gift card that motivated most of them to join the pool. Though the specifics of how people would use it varies from person to person. Besser said, “I suppose I could use it for myself and friends. Or I would create a contest for my classes and give them to my students. I have yet to really consider the opportunity, mostly because I am in 99th place.”

Johnson added, “I plan on buying all my friends who are losing food to be like ‘ha-ha, I won.’” However, my personal favorite potential use of the gift card was McLaughlin’s, “If I win, miraculously, I’m pretty sure I’m going to invite Noah Gross out to lunch because I think this was a really good idea. I think it is fun to have the school buzzing about a topic.”