How to REALLY Enjoy “March Madness” — The Flora Formula & The First Annual “Mike Flora Invitational”

As several of my close friends are aware, every year since 1988, my dad and I operated what we thought a much more enjoyable way to experience and compete with the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament bracket (a.k.a. “The Tournament”, a.k.a., “March Madness”) This will be the first NCAA Tournament season without him, and I would like to honor his memory (at least this year) by recruiting as many people as possible to participate, using “The Flora Formula” he and I created and used for nearly 30 years.

I’m calling it, “The Mike Flora Invitational” in his honor, and I invite you to join me.

I know how most of you participate the Tournament. You fill out an entire bracket, from the first round through the finals. You then sit through each round, slowly watching your bracket fall to pieces as your guesses and upset predictions never materialize. It’s quite literally “March Madness” to do it this way, my friends. But I have salvation for you!  Dad and I realized that the only way to truly enjoy every round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is to throw out the idea of filling an entire bracket and put a little work into it, ROUND-BY-ROUND. This way, we found ourselves only picking among winners. Our bracket never “fell apart” because we built it as we went along. By going round-by-round vs. all at once, we always had to stay sharp, watch how teams were playing, and make new predictions based on matchups between teams that weren’t just facing each other in theory, but were in fact slated to face each other for real!

Without further ado, the following are the steps and rules of “The Flora Formula” for Enjoying the NCAA Tournament:

(Disclaimer: While I am also a participant, I am carrying on the tradition and therefore will be trusted as “The Commissioner” of the Mike Flora Invitational)

  • STEP 1: Find 1 partner. Family, friend, close work colleague. The game can only work in groups of pairs given rules that apply to picks starting with the Elite Eight (which will quickly make sense below).
  • STEP 2: Prior to Selection Sunday (this Sunday, March 11!), use the “All Conferences” spreadsheet (I will provide you via email – ask me for it at: thetoddflora@gmail.com ) and pick which 68 teams you think will make the Tournament. Sure, some are easy and will be handed to you via default – teams winning their Conference Championships, for example. But this Spread sheet will, at the very least, remind you which conferences for which you should pay the most attention. Get these written down and sealed in an envelope, OR scan and email to me BEFORE the Selection Sunday show airs.
  • STEP 3: Prior to the tip of the first “Play-in Game,” your Final Four predictions must be written down and placed in a sealed envelope, or scanned and emailed to me.
    • 25 bonus points will be awarded later for each of the 4 that prove correct.
  • STEP 4: Once the Bracket is released, you and your partner must make sure you make your picks for the Play-in Games immediately. They are worth 1 point each.
    • At this stage, and until the Elite Eight, both players are allowed to make the same picks.
    • Be sure to use the Flora Formula Tournament Tabulation Sheet (an Excel spreadsheet, which I can also send you via email) to easily track and sum your points as you go.
  • STEP 5: By Midnight on the Wednesday (3-14-18) of the week the NCAA Men’s Tournament’s Round of 64 (the Traditional Round 1) begins, your picks are due to your partner for this round, which the networks are now starting to refer to as “Round 2,” since the addition of four “Play in Games” a few years ago. I find it ridiculous and confusing.
    • If you and your partner mutually agree to provide Thursday’s picks by Wednesday at Midnight and Friday’s picks by Thursday at Midnight, that’s fine too so long as you both get it done!
    • You can just use the bracket cut out from your local newspaper to write your picks down for the first few rounds, and to keep track of your partner’s picks. The tabulation sheet can be used to add you and your partner’s points at the conclusion of each round.
    • The Round of 64 games are worth 2 points each.
  • STEP 6: For the Round of 32, make sure you have given your partner your picks by Friday evening at Midnight, before the first tip on Saturday; Same for Saturday night for the first tip on Sunday.
    • The Round of 32 games are worth 4 points each.
  • STEP 7: Repeat steps for Sweet 16. These games are worth 8 points each.
  • STEP 8: From the Elite Eight onward, the partners are no longer allowed to pick the same teams, so this round forward is best done by phone.
    • The person who is behind in points going into the Elite Eight gets first pick
    • S/he may play or pass on the first pick, but CANNOT pick which bracket with which to start. The picks must go in “backwards N” order (Upper Left, Lower Left, Upper Right, Lower Right)
    • Once a pick is made, the other player MUST take the other team. There are no “pass backs.” If the person behind passes, the person in the lead must pick
    • The person in the lead then gets the pick for the second game, or pass. This continues back and forth for the 8 games.
    • The Elite 8 games are worth 12 points each.
  • STEP 9: Same rules from the Elite Eight apply to the Final Four, which are each worth 16 points.
  • And yes, it has happened in the past that at this stage, there is already a clear winner emerging in each pair due to very advantageous picking in the last 2 rounds. But you keep playing for the total points. And who is to say who may have enjoyed good luck with their pre-Tournament Tip Final Four predictions? It’s about pride and participation. You see it through!
  • STEP 10: Whoever is behind for the NCAA Final gets to play or pass, but then must have a separate pick again from his partner. The final is worth 20 points.
  • We add it all up, including 25 bonus points awarded for each of the Final 4 selections that survived for each player, and the person with the most points AMONG ALL PARTICIPANTS is our winner!
  • TIE BREAKER: In the event of a tie, the probability of which rises with the number of pairs participating, we revisit the number of original 68 teams picked correctly, each one receiving 1 point. And if there is STILL a tie … well, I don’t know. It’s never been more than me and my dad, so… we’ll cross that bridge.

My father and I enjoyed this friendly competition for years. It was never over money. It’s almost guaranteed to keep your interest in March Madness throughout the entire tournament, and will induce your interest in watching more of the competition.

When I lived on the East Coast, the Flora Formula gave my dad and I a good excuse to talk every few days even if we had run out of “life stuff” to discuss. Maybe you have someone with whom the Flora Formula will help you reconnect?  Whatever the occasion, be it whimsy or nostalgia, I hope you and a friend will consider playing along, and perhaps encourage others to find a partner and do so as well.

Though he was modest, and global domination rarely entered his mind, the Mike Flora I knew and love would be so pleased to find out his legacy endured and others enjoyed March Madness the way he and his son did for most of their lives together. And so, let the (First Annual?) Mike Flora Invitational Commence!!  I look forward to hearing from those of you who are interested in joining the fun.

1 Comment

  1. Last year for the final, final, final Final (as I call the championship game of every sport because the elimination games go on and on.), Cousin Carol was here and to keep us interested Dad made up a grid. The grid was like any pool and we all got to sign our name on thirty-three of them. (scores ending in numbers 0-9) We set our phones for every 15 minutes and that constituted a period. Each period we’d anti-up a quarter from the big, old change jar. The winner for that period kept the kitty. At the end the final winner had the most quarters. You never knew how many periods you get, it’s just by time. We had such a great time with every shot no matter which side was shooting because the scores change so fast in basketball. Although I recall last year was kind of a one sided game. It was fun, we shouted, we cheered, and we were fully engaged the whole game no matter who was ahead or behind.(If the 15 minutes ended during a commercial we went with the score at the beginng of the break.)
    After playing some game every day of our lives, I haven’t even played a game of Gin since 5/31/17. It’s been kind of quiet this past few months.

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