Are you entering a March Madness pool this year? Of course you are - you're a living, breathing human. There are a whole lot of people who will enter a pool and far fewer who will win one. Some people who will win pools will do it with blind luck. Many more, though, will come out on top because they were smart in the way they filled out their brackets, and those smart moves gave them a big edge. You aren't guaranteed to win your pool if you follow this March Madness bracket advice and tips, but you sure will give yourself a better chance of success.
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Consider the path
When you are handicapping a typical college basketball game, all you need to be concerned about are things like which team is better and how the game is likely to be played. You need to be aware of those things, too, when selecting your bracket. You can't necessarily just pick the best teams and hope for the best, though. You need to consider the teams that a given team is most likely to face in coming rounds, and how well that suits the team. A favorable path to the Final Four can make a decent team look great, while even a great team can falter if they face a brutal string of games. You can't just look at the quality of teams that a team could potentially play, either. You also need to consider how well a team matches up with the teams they could play. A good team could be in trouble if they potentially face multiple teams that play a style of play that doesn't suit the team. Does a team match up well offensively or defensively with their potential opponents? Are they going to be forced to play a tempo in multiple games that could wear them down? If you put the work into figuring these things out then you can have a big edge over the average bracket player.
Head over heart
It is very easy to get emotionally involved in picking your bracket. If you are fan of college basketball as well as a bettor then you inevitably have teams you like and others that you don't. There will be coaches that you respect and those that you have no time for. There are conferences that you have grown to expect big things from and others that you expect to stumble and disappoint, and there are those that you just don't think about at all. Those are all potential biases. When you are making your bracket selections you need to throw all of those out. You can't be focused on anything other than which teams are most likely to advance and how you are likely to earn the most possible points in your pool. It might hurt if you have to pick against a favorite team, but that pain will fade considerably when you are counting your winnings and figuring out how to spend them.
Stretch your comfort zone
I watch the Big Ten much more than any other league - like 10 times more. If I were to only go with what I know then I would only have Big Ten teams winning. As much as I like the conference, and as well as they have done some years lately, that would not be a good idea. Because I watch the conference so much I am also hyper-aware of the faults that some teams have and how those could hurt them. It can serve us well to be focused on a single conference during the regular season. In the tournament, though, we need to toss that aside and treat our favored conferences like all others. If you are stuck in your ruts then you'll wind up in the ditch.
Go easy on the upsets
It can be tempting to try to be a hero and pick the shocking upsets. In the moment it might make people look cool. What really makes people cool, though, is winning a pool and having a wad of extra cash in their pocket. Picking a lot of upsets - especially big ones - is a high-risk play, and people who win pools are usually not those to take risks. The downside of gambling on a big upset is usually much bigger than the upside - if you are wrong then the people who didn't pick the upset will get lots of points that you won't if the team you picked against goes on to win more games. I'm obviously not saying that you should pick the higher seed in every single game - that would be foolish. You just need to be conservative in choosing when you will gamble, and you have to make sure that the pick makes sense - it has a strong chance of coming through for you.
Ignore the hype
'Experts' are everywhere during March Madness. The problem, though, is that many of those experts aren't telling you one thing - they didn't actually watch any college basketball from November to February. These experts will be all over some teams and some players, insisting that they are unbeatable. As often as not, that just isn't the case. Trust your own instincts or research instead of what some talking head is saying to get attention.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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