If you’re like nearly everyone who submitted picks for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament this year chances are exceptionally good that your bracket at this point is a mess. “Busted,” to use the parlance of those who take these things somewhat seriously.
I say that because, and of course, attempting to predict winners and losers over the span of 67 match ups (give or take) is bound to meet some difficulties, and this year’s games seem especially determined to foil even the most informed among us.* “March Madness” has truly lived up to its name, and, as many experts have noted, quite possibly more so this year than any other in recent memory.
Michigan State, an overall #2 seed and a favorite among many to win it all, knocked out in their first game, and by a #15 seed no less? Texas A&M rallies from a 12-point deficit with 44 seconds to play and wins in overtime against Northern Iowa? Even twelfth-seeded Yale, home to the country’s best law school (if you believe the hype), scored a first round upset over #5 Baylor. Madness, indeed.
And the reason why, well, at least a reason why, is that merely probable outcomes–the higher-ranked team’s victory–don’t always hold true, particularly when observed long-term. If poor Michigan State plays Middle Tennessee, the team that ousted them in round 1, ten times in a row, odds are very good that MSU wins the majority of those games, and probably goes something like 7-8 of 10. So they’re a safe bet, even if they’re not a guarantee, and successful bracketologists account for this notion: take the favored seed most of the time, but allow for some outliers, some upsets, to occur, as well.
So how is that in any way like the LSAT?
Two similarities have already been insightfuly addressed by my colleague Dave Killoran: first, underdogs can win, particularly when they believe there’s a chance, so if you’re feeling outmatched remember that your LSAT preparation has to be underpinned by an unwavering self-belief; second, when you encounter difficulty don’t get fazed by adversity but rather use it to your advantage.
I have a 16th seed’s chance of improving on his advice, so I strongly encourage you to just read it for yourself.
Instead, to that let me add a third:
The LSAT is a largely predictable experience, but only to an extent. It has to be kept consistent–“standardized” means that there’s only so much variability allowed if the exam is going to maintain a degree of reliability–but the test makers are entitled to unforeseen “upsets” in what they choose to present. Simply put, you can know with confidence what you’re likely to face, but you must also allow for the unlikely to crop up.
Take the last three released LSATs’ Logic Games sections as a for-instance:
June 2015 featured a Linear/Grouping game, a Grouping game, a Sequencing game, and a Basic Linear game. Standard stuff, although the third game, pure Sequencing, stands out as the most unusual (the absence of Advanced Linear is notable as well).
October 2015 also offered few surprises, with a Basic Linear game, a Grouping game, an Advanced Linear game, and a concluding Grouping game. This is arguably the most typical collection of games one could face.
So far we’ve got 4 seeds topping 13 seeds, as expected.
December 2015 started predictably enough, with a Basic Linear game followed by a Linear/Grouping game. But game #3 was a shocker: a Pattern game that stopped people in their tracks. Granted, the upset march was short-lived, as the section concluded with a common Grouping game, but the damage to the unprepared had been done. A single fluke threw many people’s whole test into irremediable chaos. It effectively busted their bracket.
The moral of this comparison is that you need to treat the LSAT as though it were a sensible set of game-day picks: most of what’s to come can be expected and accurately predicted based on experience, but every so often you have to allow for a surprise. And not just be open-minded to the possibility, but actively train for the eventuality!
Prioritize your preparation around what’s most likely, whether in LR or in Games. But don’t ignore the long-shot! Studying only the most common, or most typical, leaves you vulnerable to an upset, and success depends on avoiding that at all costs.
Test takers who are genuinely equipped to conquer anything they encounter on test day aren’t just well-versed in the familiar…they’re aware of all potential outcomes and have what it takes to succeed in the face of even the most unlikely of circumstances. They’ve built an unbustable bracket.
The only sure-fire way to insulate yourself against the unthinkable is to be immersed in a course of study so comprehensive, so all-encompassing, that nothing is left to chance. Our courses offer just that, but regardless of how you choose to study never forget: with a test this important, as well as this prone to fleeting fits of unpredictability, preparedness is essential.
Questions, comments, or basketball gripes? Let us know below! Or get in touch at (800) 545-1750.
*A title I can in no way give myself: the first, and probably last as it turns out, college basketball games I watched this season occurred in the first round. And even then I was more curious observer than die-hard fan. Best of luck to those still in it!
Photo “brackets” courtesy of Mike McBride.