Friend of the site and StyleCaster founder Ari S. Goldberg emailed me on Friday to tell me he had an NCAA Tournament-related story he had to tell. What follows is his fantastic post about an NCAA Tournament picks theory. Enjoy:
For the past 10 years Mikey, Dave and I have had an NCAA Tournament Pool and every year we bet lunch at Suzie’s (Suzie’s is a Chinese joint that we used to go to when we were all at NYU because we couldn’t afford anything and they had an amazing lunch special for $5.99).
And seemingly Mikey has won every year racking up more Suzie’s lunches than we can count over such a long period of time the place isn’t even called Suzie’s anymore it’s now called Uncle Ted’s.
It has been driving me nuts for years. Why? Because I am hyper competitive? Maybe. But I think the real reason is because I am a die-hard sports fan with an insane amount of sports knowledge that exceeds my competitors in the pool and it seems rationally and mathematically impossible that I wouldn’t win at least once in the past 10 years! Once. Not twice, or three times. Just once. But no, not one win in the past decade.
Editor’s Note: So I clearly define what I mean by a “die hard sports fan with an insane amount of sports knowledge” our Dad refers to me as an ESPN baby. Not just because I was born around the same time the network was but more so because I used to wake up early for school and watch three episodes of SportsCenter before I went to school. To this day I still can watch back-to-back-to-back episodes and be entirely engaged. An ex-girlfriend once asked me “How come you need to be on ESPN.com while you are watching ESPN?” It was one of the great existential questions I had ever heard and I figure the only people who could answer it were Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Years later I went on to get a Masters in Sports Business from NYU (who the hell gets a Masters in Sports Business?), was brought on to start LeBron James’ marketing company LRMR and have been privileged to have Dan Gilbert (owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers) as the lead investor in our company StyleCaster. I also know that Kobe went to Lower Merion High School, took Brandy to his Senior Prom and all sorts of other random facts that no one in their right mind should remember. So insane amount of sports knowledge? Maybe, maybe not. But at least more than your average Monday Morning Quarterback.
So, back to the topic at hand. After losing repeatedly in our bracket challenge, my logic and ego started collaborating to come up with an acceptable explanation as to how this was happening year after year.
And then I realized it. This is a tournament that is riddled with upsets, Cinderellas and some of the greatest stories in sports history. The odds and combinations are mind blowing. And just like Billy Beane will tell you in MoneyBall that he can predict if his team will make the playoffs, but that not enough events take place in a playoff seven-game series for luck to be eliminated from the equation, so the opposite takes place in the NCAA tournament where there are so many possible events that could take place that sports fan logic is almost irrelevant.
The total number of possible brackets in a 64-team tournament is two raised to the 63rd power, which is around 9 quintillion. Therefore, the probability of randomly filling out a perfect bracket is one divided by two raised to the 63rd power, or about one in 9 quintillion.
How’s this for elite? Only 8 of 11 million Tournament Challenge brackets correctly predicted all Elite Eight teams.
— ESPN (@espn) March 29, 2014
Danny was so confident that you couldn’t pick a perfect bracket that he and Warren Buffet were willing to give you $1 billion if you could. ONE BILLION DOLLARS!
This is what led me to the theory that it is not the most knowledgeable sports fan that will win your NCAA bracket but rather the least knowledgeable sports fan.
In the male-dominated, crazed world of sports for generalization purposes it is likely not a guy that will win your bracket but rather a girl. (Before you go all crazy on me as a misogynist I am well-aware of the fact that there are many girls who are great and knowledgeable sports fans but for the purposes of the overall population you get the idea.)
And hey, if you really don’t want to let an unknowledgeable sports fan pick your bracket you could always let a group of rats run a race and pick it that way.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 21, 2014
I have always stuck to this theory since the moment I came up with it years ago, observed passively as true but have yet to test the theory. Until this year.
So when I sat down to fill out my bracket this year for “The Prestigious Clarks” Pool (we used to live in a building in Tribeca called The Clark Building so that is what Mikey has always called our pool) I decided that if I was going to lose again anyways (I was now 0-for-10 in the past decade) I would at least test my theory that a girl has a better chance of picking a winning bracket than an extremely knowledgeable sports fan (me!).
I sat down with a gal friend who was the perfect candidate. She went to a Big 10 school but her college basketball knowledge was limited to “doesn’t Indiana usually have a good basketball team,” and she went to Indiana. Perfect candidate to test my theory.
So we went through my bracket and pick-by-pick I let her make the selections. Here are her picks with some selected comments from our conversation during our selection Sunday:
First up she picks No. 12 seed Stephen F. Austin over Shaka Smart’s consistent Cinderella VCU Team that is a No. 5 seed and danced all the way to the Final Four in 2011. What sports fan in their right mind is picking S.F. Austin?! Ah, but this is not a sports fan in their right mind…this is a fashion girl with little to no knowledge of college basketball. My bracket is doomed.
Next up she takes Dayton over Ohio State. This was the one time I jumped in and said no, no sweetheart. I am from Cleveland, Ohio, I am a die-hard Buckeyes fan we do not pick against Ohio State. That was the only time I overturned her.
George Washington vs. Memphis, 8-9 game, could go either way. It wasn’t the pick that got me, it was the logic that almost made me pass out.
GW. That’s where I wanted to go to school.
Who f*&^ing gives a s*&^ where you wanted to go to school?! This is my NCAA bracket and I am f*&^ing sick of having to buy Mikey lunch at Suzie’s and you are ruining my bracket because of where you f*&^ing wanted to go to school?! At that point, I was on the verge of a breakdown. But my ego kicks in and I have now told my theory to almost every person I know and I refuse to be a hypocrite and not at least test it one year. So I bite (through) my lip and we go on.
North Carolina vs. Providence? Perfect upset pick. Overrated North Carolina could easily be upset in the opening round this year. But no, not according to her logic.
Wait North Carolina are they the pale blue? Are they the Tar Heels? Change it to North Carolina.
Michigan State, Big 10 girl I am sure she is going to go with the Spartans. And so am I, Tom Izzo always has his team on point in March and I am taking them as my somewhat surprise Final Four pick from the East. But then I remembered I am not picking my bracket this year, she is.
Not Michigan State I hate Michigan State my ex boyfriend went there.
So I ask her out of pure curiosity why are we picking Delaware over Michigan State, I think Sparty is destined for the Final Four?
Delaware. Delaware all the Jewish girls go there.
Oh of course, brilliant way to decide to pick a team. F*CK! My bracket is done before the tournament started. Sorry Coach Izzo, you know I would never bet against you but this wasn’t my call.
Most sports fans figure Arizona is coming out of the West, but hey Bo Ryan’s team could make a run. Wisconsin vs. American in the first round?
Wisconsin. No American. I kind of like American, I was going to go there if I didn’t get into GW. OK, pick Wisconsin they are Big 10 right?
So who is going to win it all?
Syracuse Jap central.
Ah yes but of course, the magic correlation between how many Jewish girls a school has and the odds of their basketball team winning the NCAA Tournament.
At this point my ego is back in check. I am now cognizant of the fact that this is one of my dumbest theories ever and it will never be proven into law.
As the games and weeks crept by I would sheepishly check my CBS Sports App to see where I was in the standings. Consistently behind with far less possible points than Mikey and Dave. It was over, my bracket and my theory. I would have to face the fact that both me and my Jewish American Princess picker both sucked at selecting NCAA Tournament brackets.
But then a funny thing happened on the way to North Texas.
As we were sitting at dinner having over-priced Sushi in the Village, me, Mikey (who happened to be in town from LA, and was clearly looking to get paid his Suzy’s/Uncle Ted’s debts), Dave and my Jewish American Picker, Mikey asked who was going to win the bracket this year with a smirk on his face.
So I slowly get my iPhone and pull up the App. I knew what was coming I had done the math. Dave had the most possible points that anyone could win so maybe he could pull the upset over Mikey, but not me. Not me and my bracket picked by a girl who knew less about college basketball than a fat kid knows about how to read the calories on the back of a pack of Oreos. It was over and I knew it. I would have to admit defeat, again, and maybe even have to pick up this sure to be $300 sushi check.
Except that wasn’t the case.
I had won!
Me and the Jewish American Picker had danced way past midnight and the carriage wasn’t a pumpkin. Cinderella was dancing baby, she was going to dance all night through the streets of the West Village. For the first time in years the A-Man (and his genius counterpart) had won “The Prestigious Clarks” Annual NCAA bracket for the first time in 10 years!
Dance Cinderella dance!!!! Take your glass Louboutins slippers and dance. I’m so damn happy I will even buy those red soles for you!!!!
And with that my long stated theory of why a girl will most likely win your NCAA Tournament pool and not the most knowledgeable sports fan has been proven into law.
Editor’s Note, Cheat Sheet: So how did she do?
1. Stephen F. Austin beat VCU in the first round.
2. Dayton not only beat Ohio State but went on to the Elite 8 and became this year’s Cinderella eventually losing to Florida to go on to the Final Four.
3. GW lost in the first round and did not make it to the Final Four as she predicted, but hey you cant pick’m all.
4. North Carolina beat Providence.
5. Michigan State didn’t lose to Delaware (obvi) but they also didn’t make it to the Final Four becoming Tom Izzo’s first senior class not to reach a Final Four.
7. Wisconsin made it to the Final Four and was the clinching factor for the A-Man’s first victory in 10 years.
8. Syracuse lost to Dayton the Cinderella of the year. Maybe Dayton has more Jewish girls we will have to research that one.
This article was originally published on www.ARandomReminiscence.com.
Ari S. Goldberg is the founder and CEO of StyleCaster Media Group. He is actively involved in a number of successful startups and prior to starting StyleCaster he was the Vice President of Strategy and Business Development for LeBron James and LRMR Marketing. He blogs irregularly at www.ARandomReminiscence.com and lives in New York City.