Wednesday, March 18, 2009


When constructing an NCAA bracket it's important to think through each choice that you make. Especially an upset or anything that seems unlikely on paper (and your personal bracket doesn't really count as "on paper" for these purposes).

If you want to tap 4th-seeded Wake Forest to knock off Louisville, the top-ranked team in the Dance, in the Sweet 16 then try to visualize how this game could play out. Knowing what you do about the teams, the personnel and the respective styles of play, can you picture a plausible version of this game - played out over 40 minutes - that produces the result you're looking for? If you engage in this exercise you'll see that there is most definitely a scenario in which point guard Jeff Teague tilts the backcourt battle in the favor of Wake, exposing Louisville's reliance on a forward, the admittedly awesome Terrance Williams, to do most of their playmaking. If Demon Deacon swingmen Al-Farouq Aminu and James Johnson can hound T-Will and keep the ball out of his hands then this game could surely go Wake's way. After all, this team beat UNC, Duke, Clemson, Boston College and Maryland this year.

Obviously mad things happen each March and someone will inevitably win your office pool by picking teams based solely on the sexual prowess of the school mascot. That's the beauty of the tournament. But, if you're like me and you enjoy worrying over these brackets and trust that logic (and hours upon hours spent watching hoops over the years) can trump chance (which it can't) then it will always help you to visualize. This way you will realize that some picks are far less likely than others. I can't, for example, visualize how Illinois could topple UNC if those two squared off in the Sweet 16.

My day has been all about such visualization (and, um, dutifully fulfilling the tasks of my regular job). Until I happened upon something that I couldn't fathom. At all. And, no. I don't mean that Binghamton over Duke upset that I picked. I mean the email alert that I received from The New York Times whose subject line was "News Alert: Fed to Buy More Than $1 Trillion in Securities."
I cannot comprehend this. I cannot visualize $1 trillion. Nope. And, it's not that I just can't imagine what that much money would look like. I'm not really even sure if I know how much money that really is. I know it's actually more than the contract that Allan Houston signed in 2001 and I think it's less than the average number of krill that Jerome James eats per hour while swimming in the ocean. After that it gets fuzzy.

In a country using the short scale, one trillion is defined as one million million, but it is considered one million million million in a country using the long scale. I'm pretty sure that the United States is a short scale country. Which means that the amount of money that the Federal Reserve is pumping "into the mortgage market and longer-term Treasury securities" could also be referred to as one thousand billion dollars. I think. But, I surely can't picture it.

I'm going to stick with basketball.

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