Bracketing Madness

Because I can laugh at myself, I present my two brackets for the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament, which started Tuesday but gets going for real later this morning.

Which I guess makes me, according to the New York Times

You combine favorites with underdogs that you carefully selected based upon their strength of schedule, assist-to-turnover ratio and the expert opinions of the other message board posters at Your bracket is the product of 36 hours of painstaking research; you took breaks only to rank players 300 through 770 for your nine fantasy baseball drafts. …

Data are your friends, perhaps your only friends. You understand that the purpose of a tournament pool is not to add zest to your basketball-watching experience or promote water cooler bonding, but to gain the 0.07 percent advantage over your co-workers that comes from turning a small diversion into a life-consuming chore. You believe co-workers admire your ability to steer all break-room conversations away from movies, family and life’s pleasures and toward Baylor’s R.P.I. rating. All the effort was worthwhile, however, when you finished tied for sixth in the pool in 2003, winning $56 and gloating for two days before beginning your research for the next year’s pool.

(The 36-hour estimate is about 18 times too long, and only that long because of my slow laptop. I don’t play fantasy sports other than imagining myself catching touchdown passes for the Packers or replacing Prince Fielder at first place for the Brewers.)

The first bracket, for a contest involving alumni of the University of Wisconsin Marching Band, was picked based on some concepts listed earlier this week from Luke Winn of Sports Illustrated.

This bracket is largely based on a composite of four national rankings Winn listed, with the higher ranked team winning. There are six first-round upsets in this one — #9 Connecticut over #8 Iowa State, #11 Colorado over #6 UNLV in the South, #13 Davidson over #4 Louisville and #10 Virginia over #7 Florida in the West, #11 Texas over #6 Cincinnati in the East, and #11 North Carolina State over #6 San Diego State in the Midwest. And I wouldn’t call it exactly daring to pick three number one seeds and a number two to reach the Final Four.

If a theme other than rankings dominates in this bracket, it’s the importance of defense. This bracket tends to discount the highly ranked teams not known for their defense, such as Missouri and Duke. Perhaps that explains why Wisconsin, which  has been unusually inconsistent this year, and yet leads the country in points allowed per game, goes to the Sweet 16.

The next bracket is for a contest I’ve been in since I worked at Marian University:

This bracket was spurred by the statistics of offensive and defensive efficiency — points scored and given up, respectively, per possession. The efficiency statistic measures production taking out the effects of tempo. Basketball fans know that the faster tempo a team plays, the more points it will score and give up (exhibit A: Grinnell, perennially first in the Midwest Conference in offense and last in defense), and the reverse applies for such slow-paced teams as, well, nearly everyone in the Big Ten, particularly Wisconsin.

I simply matched the 60 teams (not including the eight First Four teams that played Tuesday and Wednesday) by subtracting their defensive efficiency from their offensive efficiency, and whichever team had the higher number was that game’s winner. Some would suggest defensive efficiency is more important than offensive efficiency, but I decided to weigh each the same.

This one has more fun upsets. If my formula is right, prepare to meet the Lehigh Mountain Hawks, which I have not just pulling off the fifth 15-vs.-2 upset in NCAA history, but reaching the South Regional final. I also have 14th-seed South Dakota State beating third-seed Baylor and then sixth-seed UNLV, 14th-seed Belmont beating third-seed Georgetown (and like Lehigh getting all the way to the regional final), another Davidson upset of Louisville, 12th seed Harvard beating fifth-seed Vanderbilt, plus 13th seed Ohio upsetting fifth-seed this weekend.

It is interesting to note that both approaches came up with three of the same Final Four teams — Kentucky, North Carolina and Ohio State — and the same champion, Kentucky. The Old Farts bracket has Kentucky beating Michigan State and North Carolina beating Ohio State, and then the Wildcats triumphing over the Tar Heels. The Efficiency bracket has Kentucky beating Missouri and Ohio State beating North Carolina, and then the Wildcats beating the Buckeyes.

It is also interesting to note that using either system with no rooting interest, Wisconsin beats Montana and then either Vanderbilt or Harvard to get to the Sweet 16. That demonstrates the value of defense, boring though it may be to watch.


Before the school district votes …

On April 3, Ripon Area School District voters will decide the fate of a proposal to buy land for a future site for a middle or high school.

The land is farmland on South Douglas Street south of East Fond du Lac Street. The school district proposes to swap that land (with money attached) for land the school district purchased in 2004 near Murray Park Elementary School.

I haven’t decided definitively to vote for the land purchase/swap, but I am leaning in that direction. I don’t know if the South Douglas site is the best possible site, or the best possible site for the money, for a future middle or high school (preferably the latter). I do agree that, as a Ripon Commonwealth Press headline stated March 1, the proposal requires “serious analysis.”

It’s not clear that the proposal has gotten serious analysis from its opponents. For one thing, to answer what another letter-writer asks …

Did we the citizens entrust the school board members of eight years ago to do all the research in procuring land for future schools as described by Dr. Zimman in his history lesson? Then why is this not deemed a suitable site in 2012 when none of the demographics has changed in eight years?

… the Murray Park site was not an adequate site when the school board and school district voters OK’d its purchase in 2004. (I confess to not remembering how I voted on the referendum.) Perhaps a school board that objectively looked at administration proposals instead of reflexively doing whatever the administration wants would have given the Murray Park more serious analysis than it apparently got.

For instance, there is the accessibility of that site  primarily from Eureka Street. It took having children attending Murray Park and Quest Elementary School, as well as playing baseball at Murray Park, to see the regularly scheduled traffic tie-up at the four-way stop at Eureka and Oshkosh streets. That snarl is made worse by employees leaving Bremner Foods at about the same time that students are leaving Murray Park. Even if, as one letter-writer asserts, traffic hasn’t increased since the land purchase, traffic therefore now is every bit as bad as it was then.

(Does that make you wonder why the city hasn’t done anything about the Eureka–Oshkosh intersection given current traffic? Ask your alderman or City Council candidate.)

Four-way stops — whether on Eureka and Oshkosh, or Wisconsin 44/49 and Fond du Lac County KK — are the worst kind of intersection traffic control. How many drivers know the correct order for traffic to go through a four-way stop? (Few,  based on observation.) The design produces more pollution from idling vehicles. Because they require all traffic to stop, they also waste the only truly, provably nonrenewable resource — time.

The best alternative from a safety and time perspective, installing a roundabout, is highly unlikely given the size of the intersection, the adjacent properties, and the (wrongheaded) public unpopularity of roundabouts. As it is, any Eureka–Oshkosh intersection improvement will require City of Ripon and state Department of Transportation approval, neither of which are assured. Having the Ripon Police Department direct traffic at that intersection between, say, 3:15 and 3:45 p.m. doesn’t seem like a good use of resources given that students are going from school to home all over the city at that time.

That’s the issue of getting to the site. Then there’s the site itself, which is not connected to city water and sewer. Add to the installation costs the upward slope of the site, which will require a pump. The site apparently is too small to build a one-story school, which means a school there would have to be two stories, which means the cost of at least one elevator. If you go to new schools, you’ll notice that almost none (such as Ripon’s Murray Park and Barlow Park elementary schools) are two-story buildings, at least when they’re built outside developed areas.

As someone who shouldn’t have to demonstrate my anti-tax bona fides to anyone (and as one of the apparently few people willing to publicly criticize the Ripon Area School District), I think the $4-per-year cost (for the owner of a house assessed at $100,000) is not an onerous cost. Suggesting that what’s happening between the city and Boca Grande LLC should influence your vote ignores the fact that the Ripon Area School District is larger than the City of Ripon, and the Boca Grande issue is between the city and its lawyers, and Boca Grande and its lawyers.

Given what the state requires in school building construction, there is no site within Ripon’s developed boundaries that could host a middle school or a high school. (Infill development anyway is one of those things easier to do in theory than in practice, beginning with cost.) All you have to do is watch a high school varsity sporting event to realize that high schools are in fact showcases for the school district, because they get more out-of-town visitors than any other school district building. The claim that a new high school will necessarily have to include new athletic fields is (1) the decision of a future school building, (2) not necessarily what other school districts do (for instance, despite the new Waupaca High School, football games are still played at old Haberkorn Field), and (3) seems unlikely in at least the case of football given the investment the school district has made in Ingalls Field over the past decade.

Another reason should influence any school construction proposal anywhere in Ripon. The Ripon Area School District has three school districts to the west — Green Lake, Markesan and Princeton — whose long-term viability is in question for a combination of reasons. None of those school districts are growing in enrollment or in population. And yet they all face the costs that could be lumped together into the term “overhead” — paying administrators, maintaining buildings and buying supplies — that is not decreasing, particularly as the federal and state governments pile on more mandates, usually unfunded, onto schools. Smaller school districts also are less able to provide the kind of student programming larger (to a point) school districts can provide.

Wisconsin has 3,120 units of government — counties, cities, villages, towns, school districts and other governmental bodies. Only Illinois has more. That many governmental bodies in a relatively small state population-wise is not a formula for governmental efficiency, and it’s certainly not a formula for wise use of our tax dollars. Some future Legislature will figure that out and will use a carrot and/or stick to make school districts merge, or combine cities or villages with adjoining townships.

The way to prevent getting hit by the state stick is to take the initiative. The school district should approach its smaller neighbors to the west and discuss whether a merger might create better educational opportunities for students of the school districts while costing the taxpayers of those school districts less than now. That discussion needs to take place sooner rather than later because school district geography should influence where future school buildings, particularly a high school, are built.

Should that happen, a site outside Ripon’s developed borders is a preferable site. The South Douglas site is east of Barlow Park Elementary School, with Ringstad Drive’s future extension east of Metomen Street already part of the official city map. It’s also accessible from County KK and Wisconsin 23 without sending people into the maze that is Ripon. (Where visitors find out that Ripon has no through streets.)

The question that opponents of the land purchase/swap have to ask is: What is the better alternative? It is not the Murray Park site, which in retrospect should never have been purchased for a school building. It is not any site within the developed boundaries of Ripon. Which leaves … what?

Presty the DJ for March 15

Today being the Ides (Ide?) of March, let’s begin with the Ides of March:

Today in 1955, Elvis Presley signed a management contract with Andreas Cornelis van Kuijk, an illegal immigrant from the Netherlands who named himself Colonel Tom Parker.

The number two single that day:

The number one British album today in 1969 was Cream’s “Goodbye,” which was, duh, their last album:

The number one single today in 1969:

The number one single today in 1973:

The number one British album today in 1975 was Led Zeppelin’s “Physical Graffiti”:

The number one album …

… and single today in 1975:

The number one single today in 1986:

The number two British single today in 1986:

Birthdays begin with Phil Lesh of the Grass Roots and the Grateful Dead:

Mike Love of the Beach Boys:

Sly Stone:

Howard Scott of War:

Dee Snider of Twisted Sister:

Steve Coy of Dead or Alive:

Bret Michaels of Poison: