The NCAA basketball tournament has arrived, and with it, the ubiquitous office pool. But how do you fill out that tricky bracket? Every amateur bracketologist has a different strategy. Pick a few 12-seed upsets. Or pick the team that traveled the fewest miles to get to the game. Or never pick a team whose mascot is in the weasel family.
So we devised our own prognosticating strategy: Pick the team from the state that consumes the most retail gallons of propane.* The methodology was simple. For example, take the top game in the Southwest: Kansas (1) vs. Boston University (16). Kansas propane customers burned through 2.5 million barrels in 2009. Massachusetts customers used 1.8 million that year. So Kansas gets the nod.
Or the top game in the Southeast: Pitt (1) vs. UNC-Asheville (16). North Carolina consumed more than 6 million barrels in 2009 — about 500,000 barrels more than Pennsylvania. So we grit our teeth and went with the long shots from Asheville.
Which is to say, a lot of unsound basketball decisions were made. Naturally, our bracket favored the big propane-guzzling states, like Michigan, California, Texas, Wisconsin and North Carolina. That meant sending some low-seeds deep into the tournament, culminating in a cross-state battle for the championship between Michigan (7) and Michigan St. (10).
(Quick Update: Why Michigan over Michigan St.? The Wolverines beat the Spartans twice this season.)
It’s an unlikely scenario, which will require a great deal of “March Madness” to come true. But if things work out, this could be the next big “Freakonomics” story.
*Based on the Energy Information Administration’s statistics from 2009, the latest year for which they are available.