We are just a day away from millions of Americans filling out their March Madness brackets for the NCAA Tournament. Millions of people enter contests with friends and family playing for money and just for fun. Even if you don't know much about college basketball or the teams in the tournament there are a few things you can do to increase your chances of having success.
On average I fill out about 10-15 brackets every year as many fans do and like many fans I usually take different methods of making picks. Usually I will try to have 3 or 4 "serious" brackets. I also like to do an upset bracket where I try to pick a ton of upsets, there is the coin flip method, the mascot method, the rock paper scissors method and my personal favorite, having my dog or pet turtle (shout out to rocky for going 4-0 in the "First Four" last year) pick teams based on what treat they go for. All of these methods can have some success and they will definitely be fun, but how can you ensure you have success in your bracket? I think there are 5 simple things to keep in mind when picking teams and here they are:
1. Pick at least two 11 seeds to win the first round: The 11v6 matchup is always an exciting one and usually provides some big upsets. As a matter of fact in 2017 the 11 seeds won 2/4 games with one of the 11 seeds making the Elite 8. in 2016 they won 3/4 games with one of the 11 seeds making the sweet 16, and in 2015 2/4 11 seeds won with one making the sweet 16. Another reason why I like this pick so much is because 6 seeds rarely go very far in the tournament. since 2015 of the twelve 6 seeds that started the tournament only two have made it to the sweet 16 so even if you are wrong on the 11 winning the 6 is not very likely to win more than maybe one other game.
2. Do not pick a 1-3 seed to lose the first round: I think it is so dumb when people do this and here is why: Lets use the three seed for example since they are the most likely to lose of those. Since 1985 according to BetFIrm, there have been 21 times that a 14 seed has upset a 3 seed, of those 21 times only twice did they go on to win the next game so at most you will get one win there. Since 1985 there have been 15 times that a three seed has made the final four and 32 times that they have made the Elite 8, so you almost have as good of a chance as a three seed making the Final Four than you do having them lose in the first round. To me the risk is too high for one win and I would advise against you picking any 1-3 seed losing the first round more because of the potential you could lose down the line if that three seed ends up making the Elite 8 or Final Four.
3. Have no more than three 1 seeds in the Elite 8 and no more than two 1 seeds in the Final Four: This year especially I would not be surprised to see a few 1 seeds falling out sooner than people think. I think I would be less shocked if no 1 seeds made the final four then 3. I think there will be at least 1 probably 2 but you should not have more than that in your final four.
4. Do not have a "Major Conference" Champion lose the first round: Specifically the SEC, ACC, PAC12, Big10, Big12 BigEast, American, and I would even throw the A-10 in there. These will be some of the hottest teams in the country and will be riding momentum into the tournament, especially if they were not the favorite to win their tournament. I would watch out for these teams and they should be some teams you consider putting into the second weekend.
5. Pick experience if it's close: More and more we see that experience wins in the tournament, if there is a match up that is close in your opinion I would say pick the team with more experience, both in terms of having older players and NCAA tournament experience. Be careful of these teams with a lot of Freshmen, especially ones with potential lottery picks next year (aka Duke, Kentucky and Oklahoma if they make it).
Besides that you should be all set, I would just stress the importance of having your Elite 8 and Final 4 teams in place. If you are sitting there in the Elite 8 and have 5-6 teams left you will be in great shape. If you went 27-5 in the first round but have 3 elite 8 teams and 1 final four team it won't be a good finish for you. Don't get too worked up about your first round total, for example last year I was in a bracket challenge with 45 other people and after the first round I was sitting somewhere around 20-25, however I had 3/4 final four teams and 6/8 elite 8 teams and ended up winning after picking the national championship game right #HumbleBrag.