In Avengers: Infinity War, one of the characters by the name of Dr. Strange (stay with me) holds a certain stone that allows him to move through time (I know, hang in there). At a pivotal point in the film, Dr. Strange leverages this power to view all the probable outcomes of the pending showdown with the film’s core villain: Thanos. Strange informs the other assembled Avengers that he viewed all possible outcomes of the battle, totaling fourteen million, six hundred and five. When asked how many of those encounter’s they emerge from as victors, Strange ominously tells them “One.”
This is how I feel picking Yale, once again, as the sleeper upset in the first round of the 2019 NCAA Tournament.
According to the rules of probability, Yale has a 13% chance of beating LSU. Most people read that and pencil in the Tigers. I see that and say “so you’re telling me there’s a chance.” See, I understand that the numbers are very much not in my favor. I also understand it is almost certain my family and friends will mock me for the remainder of the month, neigh, the tournament. However, I also remember the magical day in 2016 when I picked both Yale and Arkansas Little Rock over Baylor and Purdue respectively…and it paid off.
Every year, the tech world is eager to show you how their evolving mastery of data manipulation is inching them closer and closer to being able to predict almost anything. SportsLine computer model of the NCAA tournament has accurately predicted 12 of the 18 first round upsets from a double-digit seed over the past three years. That is impressive, and by all standards of accuracy scoring, more than passable.
That being said, they didn’t name this tournament March Madness for purely alliterative purposes. There is an X factor that will always stand between computed models and the perfect bracket.
Anyone who has played sports before knows that the winner is the team that “shows up”. You can have the bench filled with All-American’s, you can have the Hall of Fame coach, you can have a private team jet, you can walk in with a perfect record…and you can still walk out with the L.
Data only takes you so far. It gives you context, it presents you with direction, and it allows you to base your ultimate choice on something provable. However, no matter what they tell you, it is not infallible. It is simply a resource to be leveraged at your discretion. It is not the source of end all be all truth in all situations. You need to understand where and when it is applicable, get as much value as you can from it, acknowledge the “outlier” could always occur, and prepare accordingly.
If you show up and out hustle your opponent, no matter the mathematical odds, you can emerge victorious.
So, bring on the taunts, but Yale is going down as my upset pick. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong because I believe that the beautiful game is immune to the element of predictability. I can live with that.
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