21.3.04

AND YET MORE MUSINGS FROM THE BRACKETS.

Chris at Signifying Nothing attempts to answer Lily at Kitchen Cabinet asking why the scoreboard summary (including times out remaining, fouls, the direction of the possession arrow, and sometimes the players in foul trouble) becomes a "game reset" on television. More accurately, the phrase "game reset" is a relatively recent invention. It's probably some affectedness, much like the chap who reads the sports scores giving the soccer scores as "one-nil" or the midwestern English teacher addressing the "yuman condition." Or perhaps it's a recognition that your basic brackethead can't grasp the idea of an abstract, and thinks that a summary has to have bullet points?

On to somewhat more substantive territory: The Sports Economist finds some problems with the seeding system in the basketball tournament, which enhances the chances of the strongest teams advancing in the tournament, at the cost of a few 30-40 point victory margins in the first round.
As it stands, seeding sets up yet another final between basketball giants. A random draw in the NCAA tourney might add just the spice to enhance a special and underutilized form of play, the knockout competition.
That's one possibility. Another possibility might be to use the pairing system known as the "Swiss" system for organizing a chess tournament (looks like someone is doing chess tournament pairings as a class project.) In chess, each player has a performance ranking. Although this is an ordinal scale, and at best an approximation of each player's strength, it can be used to produce a cardinal seeding of a chess tournament. The strongest player has as a first opponent a player of just below median strength, while the weakest player has as a first opponent a player oif just above median strength. In a sixteen team regional, the pairings would become 9 at 1, 10 at 2, 11 at 3, 12 at 4, 13 at 5, 14 at 6, 15 at 7, and 16 at 8. Now there is a much better possibility of "one and done" for the No. 1 team, and the No. 16 might have a shot at a second game. If one wanted to get really creative, one could use the chess tournament method to set up the second round of games. Suppose the winners were 9, 2, 3, 12, 5, 14, 7, and 16. Rank the winners according to their pre-tournament strength, and switch colors. You'd have 2 at 9, 3 at 12, 5 at 14, and 7 at 16. (In chess, the losers also play, with 1, 10, 11, 4, 13, 6, 15, and 8, 1 would be at 10, 4 at 11, 6 at 13, and 8 at 15, but we're not doing double eliminations or a six round weekend tournament here.) Such a pairing system would make filling in the brackets for the office pool much more difficult, but it would also defeat the Newmark Algorithm for submitting a booby-prize entry, as the strategy of picking the lower-rated team in each game would no longer be as certainly the poorest set of picks.

On to a more serious problem with the tournament: the graduation rates of basketball players qualify as state secrets. (Hat tip: Joanne Jacobs.)

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