Bracket Tips 101

Are you new to the bracket pool scene?  Are you experienced, but have not paid any attention during the regular season?  No problem!  Follow these basic tips, and you will  have as good of a chance as anyone to win your bracket pool.  Really!  “C’mon.  How is that possible?”  The tournament has so much randomness that NOBODY can predict, anyone can win the pool.  Still, if you’re like, “I don’t even know what a bracket is,” then take a quick look at the Bracket Background page before you proceed.

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 Four teams

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, 2 points in the Second Round, and double each round until the overall champion pick is worth 32 points. Another way of looking at it is that 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

29 of the past 33 champions have been a 1-, 2-, or 3-seed, and 61% of them have been 1-seeds. So don’t go picking a 6-seed to win it all. It ain’t gonna happen!  By the way, I’ve been pretty good at identifying the best candidates to win it all.

What your Final Four picks should look like

Only once in the past 33 years did all four 1-seeds make it to the Final 4, so while it’s a conservative approach, just know that it’s not likely to happen.  Chances are that the Final 4 teams will be 1-4 seeds – 83% of the last 132 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.

Tips for the rest of the bracket

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 opening 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 games).  Upsets are fun, but the better seed usually wins.
  • A 16-seed has never beaten a 1-seed, so don’t even try it!
  • While you’re at it, better not pick a 15 over a 2. Or should you? It’s only happened 8 times out of the last 132 matchups. After 10 straight years of futility (0 wins), four 15-seeds have won their First Round game since 2011.  Is this a new trend?  I don’t think so.  Probably not happening this year.
  • The 12-5 upset is maybe the most popular. 12-seeds have won 36% of the time in the last 33 years and 45% in the last 10 tournaments! In fact, there’s only been 4 years (out of 33) 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. The risk lies in picking wrong and the 5-seed that you thought would lose winds up advancing through the next three 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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