NCAA Tournament Bracket Tips and Advice
by Trevor Whenham - 3/14/2011
For a lot of people the NCAA Tournament is all about one thing -- winning your tournament pool. If you want to have a good chance of winning your bracket you need to be lucky, but you also need to make sure that you are making good decisions to give yourself the best chance of success. In a lot of pools there are many people who really have no idea how to fill out a bracket properly, so you have a big edge over most of those people just by thinking about what you are doing as you do it. Here are some NCAA Tournament bracket tips and advice to help you find the right path:
Ignore your emotions - I don’t know about you, but there are teams I love and those I hate. There are conferences I love watching, and those I couldn’t care less about. There are coaches I would want to have coaching my team, and others that I wouldn’t want mowing my lawn.
If you are serious about winning, though, you can’t worry about any of that. You can only focus on which team is the better one and is most likely to win each game. You won’t care if a team you hate wins it all if that win is accompanied by a big jackpot for you.
The top three seeds really matter - There have been 26 tournaments played since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985. Of those, 23 have been won by a team seeded third or higher. Sixteen of the 26 winners have been one seeds, four have been two seeds, and three have been three seeds. That’s a remarkable amount of success.
I’m not suggesting that you have to pick top three seeds exclusively to make the Final Four or win it all -- that’s not the case. If you have a team from outside the top three playing on the final weekend, though, you really need to make sure that you are comfortable with that pick because you are going against a very strong trend.
Go easy on the upsets - Upsets are one of the great parts of the NCAA Tournament, and you feel like a hero when you pick an upset and are correct. The truth is, though, that upsets just aren’t nearly as common as people think.
If you pick upsets and you are wrong you can put yourself in a very rough shape going forward -- especially if the team you picked to be beaten goes on a deep run. You don’t have to avoid upsets entirely, but you need to be really sure of your edge before you pick one.
A No. 2 has been upset only four times in 104 games since tournament expansion. No. 3s win nearly 85 percent of first round games, four seeds win nearly eighty percent, and five and six seeds win about two-thirds of first round pairings. A No. 16 has never won a game, a 15 has never won two games, and no team lower than an eight seed has ever won the tournament.
Don’t be like everyone else - If you follow college basketball during the season then you can probably do a pretty good job of figuring out what the general public is likely to do with their brackets. They will have a few of the favorite teams winning it all, and a few of the popular upsets penciled in early on. If you want to do better than most people do in their pools you need to have a bracket that is different than them.
That doesn’t mean that you should be different for the sake of being different. You need to be very conscious, though, of where you can afford to gamble with a team doing better or worse than everyone expects them t do. You win brackets based on the one or two games where most people were wrong and you were right, not in the majority of games where everyone else was right like you.
It’s important to remember, though, that these gambles have to be sound, well reasoned ones, not crazy risks with a low chance of paying off. An obvious example would be if there is a team that is heavily favored to win the tournament but you can find a way to pick them to lose before the finals. If you are right then you will be well ahead of the large majority of people.
Reputation is irrelevant - What a team, a player, or a coach has done in the past is absolutely irrelevant when it comes to the tournament. You win games and titles based on what you can do right now and what your opponents can do, not what you have done in the past. Reputations can lead you to like teams too much and put them too far in your bracket.
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