It’s just sitting there, blank and full of possibilities, open to any permutation your little heart desires. Everyone and their brother fills one out, but your bracket is special. It represents your gut feelings, your carefully crafted March Madness theories. When it’s done, you sit back and admire it, sure that this is the year you nail virtually every pick.
But something inevitably goes wrong.
That Cinderella never dances. That sure-fire Final Four team goes ice cold. Nobody guards the f*cking inbounder in a late-game situation.
Yes, it all goes to pot and someone’s girlfriend, who made her selections based on which mascot was the most ferocious, wins the your pool.
Luckily, I’m here with ten tips that can keep this Doomsday scenario from happening yet again.
1.Don’t be a hero
Everyone wants to be the genius who picks all the upsets. Sure, picking the Goliath one will make you look brilliant if it happens. It will also decimate your bracket quicker than John Wall’s first step if it doesn’t. Go ahead and pencil all No. 1 and 2 seeds into the second round. Since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, the top two teams in each region are a combined 204-4. Additionally, No. 1 seeds win 88 percent of their second-round games.
2. Keep the 12-over-5 trend alive
In every tournament since 1989 – except for 2001 and 2007 – a No. 12 seed has beaten a No. 5 seed. Overall, they’ve won 36 percent of the time, a much higher frequency than No. 11 seeds over No. 6 seeds. This year’s most likely candidate? Long Beach State, led by the electrifying Casper Ware. Second-most likely? VCU over Wichita State.
3. Don’t go streaking
It only makes sense that you’d want to hitch your wagon to a team that is just finding its stride, right? Well, not so much. Conference tournament winners account for just 16 of the 40 Final Four teams in the past ten years. On the other hand, 19 of the last 26 national champions have won their regular-season conference title. That’s good news for Kentucky, North Carolina and Kansas, who all won their respective regular-season crowns before being bounced from the conference tournaments.
4. Believe in the ACC
At least one ACC team has reached the Final Four in 22 of the last 27 tournaments. North Carolina has looked like the most talented teams at times this year, but hasn’t been dominant. Duke has obvious flaws, but if they can go on a run of hot shooting, they could be dancing in New Orelans. And then there’s Florida State. They play the best defense in the country and are red-hot after winning the conference tournament.
There’s no shortage of people out there who will tell you they’ve got a fail-safe system of selecting the winners. The only problem with that is that there are 18,446,744,073,709,551,616 different ways to fill this thing out. So, if you’ve got some sort of connection to St. Mary’s (you went to Catholic school, for instance), go ahead and take a flyer on them. Like the sound of Belmont? Pencil them in for an upset. The great part about March Madness is that it puts analysts and know-nothings on the same playing field. And, trust me, the more knowledgeable entrant doesn’t always win.