The (Political) Science Behind my NCAA Bracket
by Anthony Stasi
Mar 30, 2010 | 3108 views | 0 0 comments | 44 44 recommendations | email to a friend | print
For baseball fans, March Madness is just “the time before baseball season,” but the annual basketball tournament has value even to those that do not follow the sport all year long. There are NCAA fans that have their favorite teams throughout the season, and then there are people that root for teams for whatever other reason.

At the risk of offending true-blue college sports fans, the NCAA March Madness tournament is as big as it is because of office pools. Copies of the NCAA brackets circulate all over the country, from colleges to non-profit organizations to Wall Street. Some sports websites even offer a small link to a nonsensical Excel spreadsheet, just in case your boss trots over to your desk you can pretend to be working.

What is good about the tournament is not the amount of money (or “bricks” if you're worried about the IRS) you can win, but that the tournament starts out with 64 teams, all invited through some convoluted inexplicable system. It is always a diverse pastiche of teams and programs.

As a political junkie, I always look for the best political science programs and then go from there. Before any analysis, it is fair to say that if St. John’s were in the tournament, my loyalties are set with them. And since I like the St. John’s political science program, it still fits my team-picking system.

In recent years, my team of choice has been Gonzaga University from the state of Washington. They are a small school that makes the tournament every year, and they usually get through a few rounds. More importantly, they are a good school with smart players…and they are competitive.

Of course, if a political junkie uses this criterion, one might root hard for Georgetown. But I would suggest to hardcore politicos that Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service, while impressive, is a little more concentrated than an actual political science program. And, as a Red Storm loyalist, I cannot root for Georgetown.

On Saturday, West Virginia beat the University of Kansas, which is call for celebration since West Virginia has had a political science program since 1896 and offers a Ph.D in the field. Very little about this has to do with the players.

West Virginia meets Duke in the final four, and even though picking teams by academic programs is a good way to get eliminated quickly, these are two good political science programs that are very competitive.

So tune in on April 3 to see two universities fight their way into the finals, all while being able to make the connection between Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Social Contract and Jim Boeheim’s Orangemen of Syracuse. Until then, don’t worry about lugging all of those bricks. Unless you have Duke in this tournament you will be traveling light.

And On To Immigration Reform

It is not a story that the health care debate in Washington has become polarizing. About a year ago, I wrote in this column that it would be a better idea to address immigration reform before addressing health care. I still think that would have been a better idea.

The fact that so many members of congress were worried about insuring 11 million illegal immigrants, means that it might have created a less hostile situation if immigration came up first.

The president felt that he had to address health care when he did, because now is when he has two majorities in both Houses, which makes sense strategically. Now, however, as we go into immigration reform, it might be an even more hostile debate.

Health care has its supporters and detractors, but the general debate was more about the role of government and the economy. Immigration will be more political. There is one party that is likely to benefit from giving illegal immigrants a path to citizenship, and one that will not – at least not as much. For this reason, you have a real potential for emotions and tempers to get hot, because underneath what is right or wrong, are the political benefits.

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