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On the origin of brackets

The NCAA Division 1 men’s basketball tournament completes tonight with the championship game, in which the Wildcats, a team of male basketball players who attend Villanova University near Philadelphia, PA, USA, face the Wolverines, a team of male basketball players who attend the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, MI, USA. Over the course of forty minutes of gameplay, the teams will battle over an orange spherical object, bouncing it on a hardwood floor and throwing it to one another. They will repeatedly hurl the spherical object, called a basketball, over a metallic ring in hopes of making it fall through the ring and an attached net of twine. Each time the ball drops through the opposing team’s metallic ring, points will be scored, providing that the scoring team did not violate any of a number of rules in the process of making the ball drop through the metallic ring. At the conclusion of the forty minutes, the team that has accumulated more points will be awarded a trophy, along with a ladder and a pair of scissors with which to disassemble the twine nets. If both teams have accumulated an equal number of points, the contest will continue, in increments of five minutes of gameplay, until one team has accumulated more points than the other.

As you can see from the above description, basketball is a simple game. Nonetheless, it draws a great deal of attention every year, particularly in this tournament. Every year, millions of American humans follow a ritual called filling out brackets, during which they receive sheets of paper with the names of 64 institutions of higher education printed on them. Following their own predictions, guesses, or a combination thereof, they write the names of some of these institutions in other spaces provided on the sheets of paper, hoping that the men’s basketball team that represents the institution they write in large text in the centre of their sheet of paper will be the same team that successfully reaches the final game of the tournament and accumulates more points in that game. Those who write the correct institution’s name earn plaudits from their family and friends, and in some cases, their family and friends who also participated in the ritual make a monetary payment to the successful bracket filler outer, in an activity that is oddly pervasive yet of questionable legality.

So, how does one become a successful bracket filler outer? We can find out thanks to you, our loyal readers. We asked you how you filled out your bracket, whom you are supporting in this tournament, and who you think will win tonight’s final. The answers are contained within the GoobNet Mailbox.

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I am a student at the University of Pennsylvania. Normally, we hate Villanova, but most of us will be cheering for them, grudgingly, on Monday.

– Jordan O’Malley
Philadelphia, PA, USA

This respect and admiration for your rivals is inspiring. Today’s political leaders can learn a lesson from you.

I attend The Ohio State University. Normally, we hate Michigan. And we still do. Go Cats!

– Christopher Orton
Columbus, OH, USA

This dedication to your team and refusal to back down is inspiring. Yesterday’s political leaders clearly retroactively learned a lesson from you.

I picked the Wildcats to go all the way, so I’ll be watching when Jay Wright cuts down the net. Go Cats!

– Joseph Obukwine
Villanova, PA, USA


I picked the Wolverines. I will be watching the championship eagerly. Go Blue!

– Joseph Adams
Ann Arbor, MI, USA

Blue sound?

I picked UVA to win the tournament. Shows how much I know.

– Scott Delle Valle
Overton, VA, USA

Sound of a busting bracket?

I am a student at Loyola University Maryland. Our neighbors at UMBC defeated the #1 overall seed, Virginia, in the first round, and our brethren at Loyola Chicago reached the Final Four. Needless to say, there is a great deal of excitement here at Loyola Maryland, even though the Greyhounds were not in the tournament.

– Jay McMarster
Baltimore, MD, USA

Congratulations on being success adjacent at this year’s tournament.

My bracket was worse than Charles Barkley’s. I had Cincinnati winning the title.

– Aaron Jones-Bolle
Akron, OH, USA

You should see Debbie’s bracket. She had Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge defeating the School of Hard Knocks in the final.

Does basketball exist?

– Charlie Adams
Albuquerque, NM, USA

If it does not, we have all wasted a considerable amount of time.