Bracket Tips 101

These basic tips will help a complete beginner who doesn’t know anything about any of this to fill out a bracket that has as good of a chance as anyone to win their bracket pool.  Really!  The tournament has so much randomness that NOBODY can predict, anyone can win the pool.  If you need a little background on the tournament and brackets, check out the Bracket Background page.

Remember:  ANYBODY can win the pool! Follow these basic guidelines, and you’ll have as good a shot as anybody.

  • Start by picking your Champion and Final 4. Brackets are usually scored by receiving points for correct picks. The points for a correct pick usually double for each progressive round. So, for example, a correct pick in the First Round will earn you 1 point, but picking the overall champion correctly will earn you 32 points. In other words, each round is worth the same number of points, and those points are spread equally to each game in the round. So, if you pick the champion and the Final 4 (the winners of each region) correctly you’ll most likely win your pool, no matter what your other picks were for the earlier rounds.
  • Pick a 1-, 2-, or 3-seed as your champion.  23 of the past 25 champions have been a 1-, 2-, or 3-seed, and 68% of them have been 1-seeds. So don’t go picking a 6-seed to win it all. It ain’t gonna happen!  Use the Quarterfinal Rule to start eliminating a couple teams from consideration.
  • Only once in the past 38 years did all four 1-seeds make it to the Final 4, so don’t do that either! Chances are that the Final 4 teams will be 1-4 seeds – 81% of the last 152 of them fit the mold. If you wanna go nuts a little, pick one team seeded 5-11 to make it.  No team seeded 12 or lower has ever reached the Final Four.
  • Be creative in filling in the rest of your Bracket! After picking your Final 4, you can have fun picking which teams you think might be the Cinderella teams or which favorites will get upset early. Yes, now you can pick that 8-seed to upset a 1-seed. But keep these guidelines in mind:
    • Pick a few upsets in the First Round, but don’t go crazy! There’s been an average of about 6-7 upsets (seeds 10-15 seeds winning) in the First Round every year (out of 32 matchups).  The better seed usually wins, though.
    • A 16-seed has (almost) never beaten a 1-seed, so don’t even try it! (it’s only happened twice – EVER)
    • While you’re at it, better not pick a 15 over a 2. Or should you? It’s only happened 11 times out of the last 152 matchups. After 10 straight years of futility (0 wins), seven 15-seeds have won their First Round game since 2011.  Is this a new trend?  Maybe, but a wrong upset pick here can be catastrophic for your bracket.
    • The 12-5 upset is maybe the most popular. 12-seeds have won 35% of the time in the last 38 tournaments. 38% in the last 10 tournaments! In fact, there’s only been 6 years (out of 38) where at least one 12-seed didn’t advance to the Second Round. So feel free to pick at least one 12-seed to beat a 5. What sucks is if you pick wrong and the 5-seed that you thought would lose winds up advancing through the next 3 rounds! On the other hand, it’s real fun to have picked the correct 12-5 upset when nobody else did, and you look like a genius! The reward outweighs the risk in this case, I think.
    • While you’re at it, might as well pick at least one 10- and 11-seed to advance to at least the Second Round.

That is really all you need to know! Now, go forth and lay waste to the brackets of those who think they know everything!

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