Exotic Brackets Spotted in the Wild

Here’s a bracket I found in the unfamiliar morning paper I read this morning in the hotel restaurant. (Please excuse the crude rendition – I’m on the road (at a tournament, naturally), and the laptop I brought doesn’t have my good drawing tools on it). See if you see what it is about this bracket that caused me to steal its page from the paper:

Lakeville South                  5
–                                                Lakeville South
#2 St. Thomas Academy 2

#3 Moorhead                      4
–                                               Moorehead
Hill-Murray                        2

#1 Eden Prairie                  3
–                                               Eden Prairie
Wayzata                               1

#5 Grand Rapids               6
–                                               Grand Rapids
#4 Maple Grove                4

Did you spot it? Perhaps I should have been astonished by Lakeville South’s stunning upset of St. Thomas Academy. But that’s not it. I’m afraid I don’t follow Minnesota Class 2A high school hockey.

But I do look at brackets, and this one  stands out. It’s an 8-team bracket, in which 5 teams are seeded!

With March Madness on the horizon, we’re moving into the season when ordinary people will care, briefly, about brackets. ESPN has annoyingly appropriated the term “bracketology“, a word that would otherwise be highly appropriate for describing what I do. But I forgive ESPN because they also host fivethirtyeight.com, one of the few mainstream information sources that occasionally features really thoughtful posts about the design of tournaments.

One fivethirtyeight post I remember well from its pre-ESPN days argued that the NCAA basketball tourneys should be partially seeded. The proposal was very compelling (at least to me), but it had no chance of being adopted. It’s highly vulnerable to a fairness (A) challenge. (For those new to tourneygeek, in this context “fairness (A)” is a euphemism for mindless resistance to change.)

But now that we know that Minnesota high school hockey has adopted partial seeding, it’s time to explore the technique.

There’s a foundation to be laid first – I’ll be beginning that work presently.

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