Sakash: No sure things when it comes to bracketology

first_imgOn Sunday night after the last conference championship game is decided, printers will work overtime, pools will form, money will be exchanged and inevitably hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of people will fill out an NCAA Tournament bracket.Many will choose based on the empirical evidence gathered by watching hundreds of college basketball games, scrutinizing every pick to its core. Others will color inside the lines or hover as close to the chalk as possible. And of course, some (and mind you, this is usually the most successful group) will pick according to mascot partiality and/ or uniform color.There’s no one correct way to fill out a bracket because the NCAA Tournament is so unpredictable, which makes it as exciting as it has become over the last few decades.There are some statistics that may help with “bracketology,” however, especially for first round games when many brackets are substantiated or torn to shreds (literally). Feel free to use them even though; in the end, they’ll likely help very little.Picking No. 1 seeds are a given. In the history of the NCAA Tournament, no No. 16 seed has usurped No. 1 (that’s a 100 percent success rate if you’re scoring at home). Predicting the first ever No. 16 over No. 1 upset is throwing away points (but if you’re in my pool, you can be sure this IS the year it will actually happen; in fact all the No. 1 seeds might lose).No. 2 seeds are usually pretty straightforward, as well. They are 80-4 in first round games (since 1985, when the field expanded to 64 teams). The last time a No. 2 lost in the first round, however, was in 2001, when Hampton took out Iowa State (Marcus Fizer’s career rapidly declined since that day, and how the heck did Iowa State earn a No. 2 seed in the first place?).Three and four seeds are, for the most part, sure things. Lately, a few 13 and 14 seeds have snuck into the second round (Bucknell, Weber St. and Bradley come to mind), but even those upsets are pretty few and far between.Then there’s the pesky 5-12 matchup. Most serious bracketologists wouldn’t dare turn in their bracket without a No. 12 over No. 5 upset. The reasoning behind the strategy is sound, as every year since 1988, except one, a No. 12 seed has taken down a No. 5.Interestingly enough No. 6 seeds have a better record against No. 11 than No. 5 vs. 12. But even still, turning in a finished bracket without a No. 11 over a No. 6 is probably foolish.From there, 7-10 and 8-9 matchups are often tossups. I suggest the “Ask Your Grandmother” technique for these games. Grandmothers are perfect for this kind of thing. They usually know nothing about basketball, sports or really anything else besides baking brownies, knitting sweaters and smelling kind of weird, which makes them eminently qualified for the job at hand.Ask her which mascot sounds friendlier. Show her pictures of the head coaches, and ask her which man has a nicer face (they really like that kind of stuff; trust me). Do anything so that they are the one’s making the ultimate decision, not you.Finally, voila: The first round is complete.Now, there are some very difficult decisions to make in the second round. The first, however, happens to be the most exciting part of the process: picking the one or two Cinderella(s) in your bracket.Everyone loves to see a Cinderella go deep into the tournament. Even more people love to be the ones who knew it would happen the whole time (though they didn’t really know, they just used the Grandmother Technique and are taking the credit for themselves).If a No. 12 seed can take out No. 5, why can’t they do the same against a No. 4 and dance into the Sweet 16? A No. 11 over a No. 3, why not? Remember George Mason?The numbers get pretty crazy past the first round in terms of statistics (how often No. X moves on vs. No. Y because there are so many possible matchups). But the No. 1 seed (assuming they have moved on) will always have to play the winner of the 8-9 game, which can be a really tricky pick.The stats are in the No. 1 seed’s favor since their record against No. 8 or No. 9 seeds is 92-13 or about 85 percent all time.Though, don’t be so quick to assume No. 1 is a sure thing this year.ESPN’s resident bracketologist Joe Lunardi has Ohio State possibly matched up with Missouri (a team that was ranked as high as eighth in the polls this year) or Tennessee, (a team with wins over Pittsburgh and Villanova during the regular season) in the second round.Is it so far fetched that either of these teams could take down the Buckeyes? Heavens no! (Though if Ohio State continues to shoot the three as well as it has lately, maybe it’s an easier pick than it seems).In either case, past the second round, there are no sure things. There is no UNC with five NBA ready players to blaze through the tournament field. It’s wide open this year.Some will go through several brackets, rethinking upsets, overanalyzing the 2-15 games, pestering grandma to no end and still won’t be happy with their finished product.Others will go with their first instinct; fill out the bracket once, and leave it as is without worrying too much about it.But almost all will be wrong about almost everything.last_img read more

Alexander: The Alliance attempts to make an impact in communities of color

first_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error Alexander: Coping with the desolation, and silence, of empty seats The impetus was the same sequence of events that have awakened much of this society over the last several weeks and helped bring the toxicity of systemic racism and white privilege front and center. The deaths of Ahmaud Arbery (shot while jogging), Breonna Taylor (shot by police who broke down her door mistakenly and with no probable cause) and George Floyd (suffocated by a Minneapolis policeman who knelt on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds), and the resulting protests and backlash against the symbols of hate and bigotry, have forced America into an uncomfortable conversation that many of us had avoided for way too long.If the result of that conversation is that we now dig into the roots of the problem, that is a way forward.“The work we are going to engage in over the next five years is critically important,” said Renata Simril, president of LA84 – the foundation created through the financial success of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and dedicated to supporting non-profit youth sports organizations throughout the region.“Kids from poor communities have an obesity rate that is nearly two times higher than kids from affluent communities. Poor students are five times more likely to drop out of high school than students from high-income families. And Black and Latinx youth have the highest rates of stress, anxiety and depression.“We believe that equity is a social justice issue, and there are a lot of reasons why. Funding is one. Lack of enrichment programs, including sports and physical education in school, is another. Lack of volunteers, coaches and mentors. Safe passage to playgrounds. This is all a hindrance to positive engagement activities for kids, and to their connection (to) support systems that help them realize their true potential. And it’s a hindrance to their academic success in school. … When kids play, they are healthier, both physically and mentally, and do better in school. But it requires access and opportunities.”The professional organizations’ involvement will include money and time, including the participation of the teams’ players, as a complement to their current charitable activities rather than a replacement. But it can’t be just having stars showing up occasionally for meet-and-greets.Simril talked of working with organizations already entrenched in the communities, with an emphasis toward sports and educational opportunities for youths 14 to 18 – and reminding those boys and girls that there are career opportunities in sports that go beyond the field or court. They could be executives, or videographers, or someone like Blake Bolden, who was the first Black player in the National Women’s Hockey League, now is an AHL scout for the Kings and also will work with their front office on diversity and inclusion initiatives.“It’s like that famous adage – if she can see it, she can be it,” Simril said.Related Articles It is unprecedented. A coalition of Southern California’s 11 professional sports organizations, some of whom compete bitterly on the field or court and all of whom scramble for area fans’ dollars and attention, have banded together for a cause.It is noble. They recognize that by pooling their efforts and resources and going all-in with the LA84 Foundation’s Play Equity initiative, they can help make a difference in communities of color desperately in need of jobs, educational opportunities and hope.And it is ambitious. The ALLIANCE: Los Angeles, the combined effort of the Dodgers, Angels, Rams, Chargers, Lakers, Clippers, Kings, Ducks, LAFC, Galaxy and Sparks unveiled Tuesday, has given itself a five-year window to create and sustain change in those communities, through funding and attention.Will it work? Will these organizations, all of whom have their own issues with a global pandemic having ravaged the sports landscape, stay the course and maintain the commitment that was announced Tuesday? Maybe this is the best way to look at it: There is too much at stake, in Southern California and beyond, for it not to work. This collaboration can be a powerful example in other cities where sports have such an outsized profile.It is not the sole path to the end of poverty and inequality. But it’s an idea and a commitment, and more specifically one that will be monitored and tracked to gauge its progress.It’s most definitely a start.“We felt like, if not sports, then who?” said Tom Penn, president and owner of LAFC, during the virtual news conference Tuesday at which this collaboration was officially announced.“Our goal is pretty simple. It’s to unite as allies. In many cases we’re rivals, but in this case we’re allies to push against racial injustice, to take on important issues in communities of color and particularly the Black community. We expect this alliance to be a beacon and a magnet for cooperation and collaboration in Los Angeles and greater Los Angeles.” Alexander: Lakers-Blazers is not your typical No. 1 vs. No. 8 series center_img Alexander: Lakers fans, it’s been a long wait Alexander: Baseball’s ‘unwritten rules’ need to be erased Alexander: Playoff series takes a turn Clippers weren’t expecting Will five years be enough to solve these problems. No. But the ambition seems to be that this will be more than one five-year term, and each increment of commitment that follows will bring those potential solutions closer.“I think the intent of announcing this is so we are held accountable and that we do the good work and the hard work over the long period of time,” Lakers’ chief operating officer Tim Harris said. “We’re not getting together here today to say we intend to boil the ocean. What we’re doing is getting together to say we’re gonna take a little part of the ocean and we’re going to try to boil that, and hopefully that motivates others to do the same.“It took us 400 years to get here. We’re not going to get out of this overnight. But the only way we are going to get out of this is to start taking positive baby steps.”jalexander@scng.com@Jim_Alexander on Twitterlast_img read more