Every year, March Madness takes over conversations and computer screens across the nation. At Haverford, students create leagues of their own and compete with friends in hopes of obtaining the school-wide title.
Every year, Dean of Students Mr. Mark Fifer organizes a Wilson Hall bracket challenge that receives over 200 entries. Every player is allowed to submit two brackets, gaining points for correct predictions in a series of weighted rounds.
Mr. Fifer has had much success in the past years, as he never fails to remind us.
“Did I mention I won last year?” he asked.
Why did Mr. Fifer win? Does he have a winning secret?
While Mr. Fifer recognized early on that “most of it is just intuition,” he still has certain tricks up his sleeve.
“I look at it from a backwards design.”Mr. Mark Fifer
First, Mr. Fifer described his general approach to formulating a bracket.
“I look at it from a backwards design,” Mr. Fifer said. “I’ll think about seeds because it’s rare for all four number-one seeds to be left in the tournament.”
Then, Mr. Fifer tries to predict which number one seeds “will make it to the final four and then what non-number-1 seeds are going to make it.”
“I go for the big points,” Mr. Fifer said.
He suggests that you make your bracket backwards and avoid spending too much energy on predictions for early-round, irrelevant games.
“The reality of it is that picking that 8-9 game, I don’t think it really matters,” Mr. Fifer said.
While this is his core strategy, Mr. Fifer uses other indicators to make sure that he is content with his final predictions.
“I’ll also look at who’s playing well at the end of the season,” Mr. Fifer said. “Last year, I picked Texas Tech in the final four, and why did I do that? Because they had a really good showing at the Big 12 tournament.”
Mr. Fifer also analyzes a range of factors that can influence team performance. “I’ll look at the coaches,” he said. “I always pick Michigan State to go far because of Tom Izzo.”
Now, some of Mr. Fifer’s big-picture predictions.
“The ACC is down,” Mr. Fifer said. “The Big 10 is going to have a pretty good tournament.”
“To be honest, the top end doesn’t seem to be as good this year.”Dean of Students Mr. Mark Fifer
“To be honest,” Mr. Fifer said, “The top end doesn’t seem to be as good this year, so I have no idea.”
Overall, Mr. Fifer believes that the competition is a rallying point.
“It gives people a chance to talk with one another,” Mr. Fifer said.
Mr. Fifer will soon begin the schoolwide competition when the bracket is released. The upper school can compete for a gift card, but, much more importantly, bragging rights.
“I got it last year,” Mr. Fifer said. “Did I mention I won?”