Tired of bracket staleness, March Madness fans renewed by auction format
Without a doubt, the NCAA tournament pick-em pool has become a long-standing, unofficial workplace tradition but, let’s face it: most pools are getting stale.
As such, a few March Madness fans are finding alternatives to filling out a bracket, which oftentimes can become a coin-flip decision because of an emotion-less connection to a team.
Opting for an auction format, a group of Grinnell College faculty and staff have developed and perfected a way to make March Madness more interesting.
While the format better resembles a “Calcutta auction,” every tournament team is up for auction and is bought through a bidding war.
“We like this system because, unlike most common approaches, it allows players real flexibility in pursuing overall strategies, making trade-offs between, say, a number-one seed or two number-three seeds,” Simpson wrote recently in his blog.
At Grinnell, eight players pay $25 for the right to play and to spend up to $25 of fictional money in the auction, which is held after selection Sunday.
During the auction, eight teams are bought through bids that rise in 10-cent increments by eight players. The format may be expanded up to 12 players but most who use this format recommend no fewer than six players to make it interesting.
The result is a roster of teams that comprise a team, or portfolio, that with each victory the team wins in the tournaments earns a percentage of the total pot collected prior to the auction.
In other words, the “market of the auction” sets the relative costs of the teams instead of relying on the rankings committee to assign value.
“It creates payouts that reflect players’ performance with some subtlety,” Simpson wrote recently in his blog. “Prizes will spread out rather than simply going to the luckiest player or players.”
For example, if everyone believes Kansas will win the championship, the team could sell for as much as $24.30. Remember that all eight people need eight teams, so this assumes the seven remaining teams will sell for a minimum of 10 cents each.
In the Grinnell auction pool, Simpson says each first-round winners earn 1.25 percent of the $200-pot, or $2.50 in an eight-person league.
Over the next four rounds, winning means roughly an additional dollar payout or, on average, about one percent more of the total pot.
For owners of teams playing in the final game, they will earn $6.00 each and the NCAA champion will pay out an additional 4.0 percent of the total, or $8.00.
The auction format, Simpson notes, forces commitment and builds excitement for the underdog.
“Everyone remembers who had George Mason the year they won,” Simpson said.