Can you beat Europeans in a Bracket Challenge?

Okay, so I recently moved to Europe for work.  Of course, the down side of that is that I had to stay up until 4 AM to watch the Super Bowl, and I’m largely excluded from national pasttimes like the annual “Stop Working and Pretend That You’re Working But Really You’re Streaming Video on your Phone” days or as we call it more colloquially, “The NCAA Tournament opening rounds.”  As such, I have had limited opportunity to participate in office pools for the Tourney.  So I did what any true American would: I forced my European staff members to submit a bracket, promising to buy them lunch if they beat me as motivation to participate.


Some background:  I sent them the bracket, I told them basically how to fill it out, and that the Seed # is a rough indicator of the quality of team, and that the number to the right in parentheses is the team’s regular season record. Though I had to point out that because there are 300+ teams, they do not play a round robin like every European sport ever.  This confused them.  I also gave them a Wikipedia link and a snippet from the article to help them with decision making:


Round of 64 results

  • The #1 seed is 120–0 against the #16 seed (1.000)
  • The #2 seed is 113–7 against the #15 seed (.942)
  • The #3 seed is 102–18 against the #14 seed (.850)
  • The #4 seed is 95–25 against the #13 seed (.792)
  • The #5 seed is 76–44 against the #12 seed (.633)
  • The #6 seed is 79–41 against the #11 seed (.658)
  • The #7 seed is 73–47 against the #10 seed (.608)
  • The #8 seed is 59–61 against the #9 seed (.492)



I hoped this would at least make it competitive, so that they wouldn’t be picking a bunch of Hamptons in the Final Four.  It seems to have worked out pretty well.  Generally.


I am scoring the brackets on a 1-2-3-4-5-6 format, so if you want to see how you stack up against your European peers, give yourself a point for everything in the “second” round, 2 pts for the 3rd, etc. until you get 6 for the Championship.  I will post their score updates daily throughout the tournament.


I’ll give a little background on the person, then their bracket, then a bit of their logic (that I asked them).


First off, we have Helen.  Helen is a native Brit who lives half the time in Berlin and the other half in Budapest.  She went in the face of the data and picked not one, but two 16 seeds to advance.   Here’s her full bracket:

She was so unconvinced by Kentucky’s perfect regular season record that she had them lose in the first round!  She cited that “I chose based on whether or not I liked the names of the schools.  Good news for Manhattan, bad news for the 34-0 Wildcats.  But man, what a story that would be.  Ultimately she ends up with a non-Kentucky final, which may help her out if the Wildcats do end up getting knocked out early.


Next we have Seema.  Born in Vienna to Indian parents and now living in Berlin where she is unable to get people to speak German to her despite being a native German speaker, Seema took copious notes from my pointers, and was the only one to make significant bracket changes while filling it out.  Here’s her full bracket:


Like Helen, she went in the face of the data and picked Coastal Carolina over Wisconsin.  When pressed, she said “Coastal Carolina, that sounds so cool.  They have to win”


Can’t argue with that.


After that we have Diana, the only native born German in the field.  Like a true German, she played fairly conservative, but still had Kentucky losing in the Elite 8.  Her bracket:


As you can see, only two non 1/2/3/4 seeds make it to her Sweet 16: SMU and Xavier, both 6 seeds.  Upon asking about her pick of SMU, she replied “What does SMU stand for” and when told, thought aloud “Hmm, okay.”  Confident as always.


Next we have Ela.  Originally from Poland she lives in Berlin now. While generally conservative, she was big on The Summit League, predicting the NDSU Bison would beat Gonzaga.  Can’t help but wonder if she was thinking about college football.  Her bracket:



Riding the Bison into the Elite 8!  Also predicting an all-Kentucky showdown in Indianapolis as the Wildcats take on the Cardinals.  In my opinion, this is one of the better brackets I saw, even with NDSU a bit too far.


Second to last we have Paul, who grew up in Germany to Polish parents, Paul speaks 4 languages and was the most reticent to join the competition. His full bracket:


Besides Stephen F Austin in the Elite 8 (which actually isn’t a bad underdog to pick, ignoring the fact that they lost on Thursday), most of his picks look pretty reasonable, a good mix of upsets and favorites.  Like most others (in this pool and in every pool worldwide), he rode Kentucky to the finals.


Our last contestant is Stefano.  Born in Sicily, Stefano enjoys motorsport but doesn’t really enjoy team sports.  He was big on 12 and 13 seeds, picking 3 of each to advance (for some reason Northern Iowa and Louisville avoided the fate of their peers).  His bracket:


Like Paul, he also had Stephen F Austin in the Elite 8 (must be an attractive name!).  Stefano, being a native of Syracuse (the real one, in Italy), was very excited that teams would be playing in Syracuse, NY.  Upon finding out that the university in that particular city was not participating, he was disappointed.


Overall, I was surprised at how “normal” the brackets look.  These look not that different than a distribution of brackets you would see in your run of the mill office pool.


And like most office pools, I have a sneaking suspicion that someone who doesn’t watch college basketball will be winning.