It’s just three days until March Madness tips off for real (only one day until Dayton starts, but I still find it hard to care). That means that there are just three days to fill out the brackets that will win your pools and gain you fame, fortune, and a year’s worth of bragging rights. To help you fill out your best possible bracket here is some prime March Madness bracket advice and tips:
Ditch the emotions
The NCAA Tournament is a great time to be a basketball fan. If your team is in the draw then you’ll be an emotional wreck. Even if your team isn’t in you’ll find plenty of teams to love and hate, and those feelings will only intensify as the tournament goes along.
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Having those emotions is what being a sports fan is all about. Unfortunately, it is the biggest enemy of picking winning March Madness brackets.
When you are filling out your bracket you have to take off your fan cap and have the ruthlessly objective eye of a winner. For example, the fan in me is certain every time that Michigan makes the field that they will cut down the nets after winning each of their six games by at least 20. In my brackets, though, I haven’t picked them to go beyond the second round in their last two appearances, and their road ends in my Sweet 16 this year. I hate to think of that possibility, but I hate losing brackets even more.
Do your homework
The large majority of brackets are filled out by people who pay a lot of attention to college basketball in March and very little attention in the four previous months. That means that they are far more familiar with the bigger-name teams than they are with the lesser mid-majors.
Each year there are a lot of mid-majors that can easily be ignored — you don’t need to worry about Western Kentucky this year, for example. There are always some teams, though, that sound obscure and irrelevant, and which are matched up against impressive-sounding teams, that are much better than their name suggests.
VCU last year obviously fits into that category after their run to the Final Four as a No. 11 seed. This year teams like South Dakota State, St. Bonaventure, Montana, or Belmont are among the teams that could have far more bite than you might guess from their name.
Go easy on the upsets
Everyone loves upsets. Years like last year, in which the Final Four was made up of a No. 3, No. 4, No. 8, and No. 11 makes it seem even more attractive than ever to pick plenty of upsets. The problem with picking upsets early on in a bracket, though, is that they are very costly if you are wrong.
Sure, you would have looked like a genius if you picked VCU as a Final Four team. When you a pick a first-round upset that doesn’t happen, though, then you aren’t only missing out on that win, but on every other win you picked your underdog to upset as well.
Picking several upsets that don’t happen is the surest way there is to lose big in a bracket. And here’s the thing — upsets just aren’t nearly as common as they seem. There were more first-round upsets in 2001 than in any other year, yet only 13 of the 32 games were won by the lower-seeded teams.
Last year seemed like one of the craziest tournaments of all time, yet only seven lower-seeded teams won their first-round games, and five of those seven came in one regional.
Upset picks are sexy, but making a lot of them just isn’t very smart.
Tune out the hype
It seems like everyone is an expert at this time of year. Every Web site has a NCAA pool, and advice, picks, and recommendations are absolutely everywhere. Most of the people who have so much to say, though, only talk about the sport once a year.
If you were to listen to all the noise you would get so overwhelmed by the hype that you wouldn’t know what you should be doing.
Ignore it all.
Find a few good sources of information you can trust — people that follow the sport all year rand aren’t just regurgitating what everyone else is saying — and then just trust your instincts.
When two teams seem to be reasonably equal, trust experience.
Winning games in the NCAA Tournament is extremely hard, and teams face more pressure than they have ever faced before — unless they have played in the tournament before. The team that has more experienced, more mature players, and a more experienced coach is going to have an edge over the less experienced team.
That doesn’t mean that the more experienced team will always win — Butler two years ago and VCU last year proved that anything is possible. It just means that when in doubt trusting the experience is a sound move. Winning brackets is far less about gambling than people think, and far more about determining what the safest, most logical bet is in each case. The experienced team is almost always the safest team.
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