The tradition of filling out a bracket is about as American as apple pie, and for so many of us is something we look forward to every single year.
The American Gaming Commission estimates that around $10.4 billion dollars will be wagered on March Madness, with over 70 million brackets to be completed.
If you’re reading this, I’m positive that you are planning on entering a few or a dozen bracket pools and contributing to that ten billion. There’s no doubt you should continue doing so, because brackets are good and fun.
But what if I told you about a different challenge? One that combines the long-term prognosticating that bracketing dabbles in, with a healthy side of fantasy sports.
Enter “Dream Team.”
You get 15 points to spend on five players competing in the NCAA Tournament, with the object of selecting the team with the most cumulative points scored over the course of the entire tournament.
Of course, the better the player the more they cost. For example, Justin Jackson, Malik Monk and Donovan Mitchell all cost five points; thus you can’t load your team up with superstars. But players like Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ or Virginia’s London Perrantes offer value at a price of 3 points with the flip side of being less likely to advance far.
The beauty of Dream Team is that it strikes a balance between forcing you to select not only the teams that will dance the longest but also the players that perform the best on them. This makes for tons of strategy options. Maybe you load up on players from two teams who you believe wholeheartedly will make it to the Final Four. Or perhaps you’ll go safe on a few known names along with high-performing stars on potential Cinderella teams.
I was introduced to the beauty of the Dream Team pool by my college buddy Ozzie. He devised the game with a friend from high school, years before anyone had ever heard of Daily Fantasy Sports.
Over the years they have perfected the equation they now use to assigns values to each player, as well as the process by which teams are scored over the course of the tournament.
If it sounds difficult to manage a Dream Team pool, that’s because it is certainly more work than an ESPN or Yahoo bracket challenge. Ozzie still hand enters the scores for each player in each game, but has an excel spreadsheet that links to the main list of scores.
But the result is a uniquely complex game that adds an entirely different dimension to March. My first rodeo in 2014, turned into a whirlwind ride led by Ryan Boatright of Connecticut and Casey Prather of Florida to first place and a cool cash prize.
Perhaps the best part of Dream Team is how well it serves as a companion to my traditional bracket games. My research and scouting for Dream Team has improved my understanding for filling out brackets. Selecting my squad will never be the same as completing my pen & paper bracket, but I can’t imagine March without it.
There’s still some time for you to create a Dream Team pool of your own, and Ozzie has graciously provided a copy of the full rules and player values for all to share.
Gabe Duverge joined The Cardinal Connect as a contributing writer in the summer of 2013. He has previously written for Bleacher Report and LouisvilleKY.com. You can follow Gabe on Twitter @GabeDuverge.