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Jerry Davich: Who’s in your bracket?

Jerry Davich. | Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media

Jerry Davich. | Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: April 23, 2013 1:34PM



How confident are you with your bracket predictions for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament?

Without using any science, statistics, or sports-geek chatter, I filled out my brackets and I’m 100 percent confident that I have utterly no chance of correctly picking the Sweet 16 or Final Four, let alone the championship team.

I’m also confident that a drunken monkey throwing bent darts at a beer-stained bracket sheet could pick the winners like those so-called sports “experts.” You know who I’m talking, those know-it-all amateur sports geeks who simply can’t shut up about their picks, their detailed reasoning behind them, and why they have no date again this weekend.

This year, I’m going with the “D&D” strategy for my two sets of brackets, meaning I picked Duke in one office pool and Davidson in another pool. Davidson? Who the hell is Davidson, right? I have no idea, which is why I picked them as my Cinderella story victor. Unlikely? Sure. But that’s what makes it fun. Any rube can pick, say, Kansas, Indiana or, ahem, Duke.

It seems as though everyone and their grandma is into the pop-culture phenomenon of “March Madness” this year as we wait for spring to be sprung in this region. I know a 7-year-old boy and a 71-year-old nursing home resident who filled out a bracket form — and they’re confident in their picks.

Even President Barack Obama has publicly announced his picks, with Indiana University predicted to go all the way. (His Final Four includes Louisville, Ohio State, and Florida.) That’s the beauty of March Madness. Everyone can be a fan, an expert, and a prognosticator. Until our team(s) lose, of course.

Plus, what better way to waste time at work over the next month, right? A new poll says workplace productivity will plummet during the NCAA’s big dance with nearly a third of workers spending as much as three hours a day watching the plethora of games. Just three hours a day? I think that figure is way too low, especially considering that the games can be viewed on smartphones, tablets and iPads.

An outplacement firm called Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. estimates that the tourney will cost U.S. companies $134 million in “lost wages” as roughly 3 million workers watch hoops instead of doing their job.

“Will March Madness have an effect on a company’s bottom line? Not at all,” said John Challenger, the company’s CEO, in a statement. “But if you ask department managers and corporate IT managers, March Madness will definitely have an impact on the flow of work, particularly during the first week of the tournament.”

This loss in productivity has already begun when workers organized office pools, researched teams, and planned viewing parties. It only gets worse today and beyond with some companies noticing a significant drop in Internet speeds as their employees stream games online, the survey predicts.

Not to mention the predicted 7 percent of workers who will flat-out call off work to watch some of the games, the survey stated. Most of us will watch the games with our bracket sheets in hand to see how our predictions panned out. Most fans will be disappointed early during the tourney and their long-shot dream of a “perfect bracket” was already dashed on Thursday.

Perfect bracket? Right

The odds of predicting a perfect tourney bracket are less than 1 in 9.2 quintillion, according to a DePaul University mathematics professor. For those of you who are math challenged, such as me, that’s 9 followed by 18 zeroes.

“There are more than 9 quintillion ways to fill out a bracket, so if you’re just guessing you basically have no chance,” explained Professor Jeff Bergen in a mathematically dizzying YouTube video. (To watch it, visit http://bit.ly/AteRMp .)

“But what if you know basketball?” asked Bergen, who notes that a No. 1 seeded team has never lost to a No. 16 seed team, and that a No. 2 seed team rarely loses to a No. 15 team and so on.

So, you ask, what are your odds of predicting a perfect bracket with all of that inside sports knowledge that typically goes to waste while sitting on bar stools? It’s 1 in 128,000,000,000, the good professor concludes.

To put this into better perspective, Bergen said if every single American filled out a bracket at those odds, the chance that “anyone, anywhere in the U.S.” would do so perfectly is less than one quarter of 1 percent.

“So when your bracket goes down the tubes, don’t worry. So is everybody else’s,” he said with a smile.

If you’re interested in playing alongside some of your favorite FOX sports TV celebrities, visit http://msn.foxsports.com/fantasy/
collegebasketball/tourney/leaderboard/celebrity/. There, you can compete against on-air analysts and personalities such as Regis Philbin (who picks Louisville to go all the way), Chris Myers (Kansas), and Troy Aikman (Indiana).

Once again this year I’m challenging readers to beat my (admittedly hopeless and clueless) bracket predictions by calling my “Casual Fridays” radio show between noon and 1 p.m. Friday. All callers with a Final Four prediction will receive a prize of some kind, including Portage 16 Imax movie tickets. And if you predict the tourney’s eventual winner, you could win $50 in gift cards from local businesses.

We’ll also have a bona fide college basketball expert joining us, Post-Tribune Deputy Sports Editor Steve Gorches, who will offer legitimate insights and predictions.

Tune in at 89.1-FM, Lakeshore Public Radio, streaming at www.thelakeshorefm.com. Call in to the studio line at 769-9577.

I’ll leave you with this memorable barb from Bobby Knight, the former IU basketball coach, referring to journalists.

“All of us learn to write in the second grade,” he said. “Most of us go on to greater things.”

Find more of Jerry’s writings on Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In, and jerrydavich.wordpress.com.



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