Don't Make These Mistakes When Filling Out Your Bracket
by Trevor Whenham - 03/19/2008
Filling out a winning March Madness bracket or making winning bets on the tournament is as much about avoiding mistakes as anything else. There is so much coverage of the tournament, and so much readily available conflicting information, that it can be easy to believe that things will happen when they most likely won't. By now you have probably read a million different articles about how to make your NCAA Tournament picks in general, but I figure that it is time to look at the actual bracket to see what traps are sitting there just waiting to suck us in.
1. This is not the same George Mason. The Patriots had a truly amazing run a couple of years ago, and they have some of the same players still with them, but this team is not likely to manage what it did in 2006. That year they only lost twice in conference play. This year they dropped five. In 2006 they were 15-7 ATS. This year they were 10-15. In 2006 they were probably seeded lower than they should have been. Now the opposite could be true.
2. Don't overlook the Big East. It's being said all over the place that the Big East is over-represented in the tournament because they have a record eight teams. That's not necessarily the case. The conference has 16 teams, so they should have more in the draw. Only 50 percent of the teams made the tournament. Sixty percent of the teams in the Pac-10 are in. What I'm saying is that it would be a mistake to discount the lesser Big East teams just because they finished in the middle of their conference.
3. Don't pick all of the fives and sixes to win. In the 23 years since the tournament adopted the current format the fives and sixes are only 126-58 in the first round. That means that the 11 or 12 seeds win 31.5 percent of games. That should translate to two or three wins by the 11 or 12 seeds this year. Last year was a very formful tournament, and there was still an upsets from among these seeds. At the very least, Saint Joseph's, Kansas State, Temple, Kentucky, and Baylor are all worthy of extra attention. I'm not saying that they will all win, or even that they are all good picks, but they need to be looked at.
4. No. 1s are No. 1s for a reason. There is, as you probably noticed, a ridiculous amount of debate that goes into which teams should be a No. 1 seed. That's because the No. 1 seed is a very big deal. They are the best teams, and they are given the easiest path. As a result, you need to have a good reason to pick against them. Just look at the winning percentages of the top seeds - they have never lost their first round games, they are 80-12 in the second round, 65-15 in the Sweet Sixteen, 38-27 in the Elite Eight, 21-17 in the Final Four, and they are 9-4 in the championship game when they aren't playing against another No. 1.
5. Experience matters. Coaches that win the tournament have been there several times before. You want to look at teams that are coached by a guy who has taken a team to the tournament at least four times when you are looking for a winner. Teams also need a mature presence on the court. That's not to say that they can't go deep with freshmen as stars. It's just that there needs to be some older presence to calm the youngsters down when they get too excited. If a team is very young then it is probably a mistake to pick it to go far. That's why Villanova wasn't on the list of No. 12s that could do some damage.