March Madness Brackets Advice and Tips
by Trevor Whenham - 3/14/2011
It’s almost time for March Madness to tip off. That means that it is time to fill out your bracket - hopefully your winning bracket. Here is some March Madness bracket advice and tips to help you with your March Madness brackets strategy:
Don’t let emotions guide you - If you are a college basketball fan then there are probably teams that you love and teams that you really hate. There are conferences you like, and others you don’t care about. If you are serious about winning your pool, though, then none of that can matter. When you are filling out a bracket the only thing that matters is which team is better, not which team you like more.
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Look beyond the names - There are a lot of matchups throughout the tournament that will feature a big-name team that you are very familiar with playing against a team you know almost nothing about. You absolutely cannot use familiarity to drive your betting decisions, because the biggest name teams are quite often not the best ones. It could be that the big-name team is just an average team that was in the middle of their conference while the unknown team was a dominant winner of a smaller conference that is more than capable of beating an average major conference team. You have to pay attention to what a team is capable of, not what names are on their jerseys.
Don’t overdo the upsets - Upsets are a big part of what makes the tournament brilliant, but they can be far too alluring to a lot of people when filling out their brackets. There will inevitably be upsets in the tournament this year and every year, but not as many as you might think. The lowest seed to make the Final Four is an 11, and that has only happened twice. A 12 seed has only made the Elite Eight, and only rarely. A 14 has never made it past the Sweet Sixteen, and a 15 has never won two games in the same year. There is talk every year about the possibilities of the biggest upset we have seen -- a 15 over a 2. That has only happened four times in 104 games, though, so it’s a lousy bet that there will be one this year. You’ll look like a hero if you pick an upset here and get it right, but you’ll probably lose your bracket if you are wrong, and you’ll very likely be wrong.
Have a very, very good reason to have any team lower than a three seed in the Final Four - There have been 26 tournaments played since the field expanded to 64 teams. Twenty three of the 26 champions over that time have been at least a three seed -- 16 were No. 1s, four twos, and three threes. It’s possible for a lower ranked team to make the Final Four, obviously, but unless you are confident in your pick for some reason there is no good reason to gamble.
Ignore the hype - In March everyone becomes a college basketball expert -- regardless of how much attention they have paid to the sport the rest of the year. Those fair weather geniuses will inevitably jump on the bandwagon of some hot teams and make it sound like they can’t possibly lose. The hype can sound compelling, but until you check it out and confirm that the hype is backed up with sound logic then you can’t trust it to make your picks.
When in doubt, pick the nine - As we talked about earlier, the higher seeds often have an edge -- and usually a significant one -- in first round pairings. There’s one exception, though -- for a number of reasons, the nine seeds have come out on top in 56 of 104 pairings since the tournament expanded.
Conferences don’t really matter - It’s important to remember when you are filling out your bracket that a team from any conference is, at least theoretically, capable of beating a team from any other conference. In that sense you really need to be blind to the conference a team comes from and focus on what they play like. Focusing on the conferences for the major conference teams can lead to real problems as well. It is easy to assume that all teams in a conference are dangerous if a conference is having a particularly strong year -- like the Big East is this year, but that’s just not the case.
Experience counts - If two teams have comparable capabilities and talent levels then chances are that the team that is the more experienced -- both players and coaches -- is the one that is going to go deeper. There are countless examples -- like Kentucky in 2010 -- of teams that are ridiculously talented but too young to stand up under the pressure of the tournament.
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