Before March Madness officially begins this Thursday, I thought it would only be fair to give a little insight into my method on picking the perfect bracket.
Rule No. 1: Never pick all No. 1 seeds
This seems like an obvious rule, but to some it’s not. Since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985, only once have all four top seeds (2008) made it to the Final Four, when the University of Kansas claimed the title. With this year’s group of No. 1 seeds creating so much instability with inconsistent play, I am willing to bet my college tuition that at least one of these four teams (the University of Florida, the University of Virginia, the University of Arizona and Wichita State University) won’t make it to the Final Four.
Rule No. 2: Big Ten Conference teams do not win the tournament
The University of Michigan made it to the title game last year, but the sad truth is that teams from the Big Ten soar through the early rounds of the tournament, but then fall flat in the Final Four. No team from the conference has won the tournament since Michigan State University won it all in 2000 versus Florida. There’s a good chance one Big Ten squad will make it to the Final Four, but no team will win it all this year.
Rule No. 3: In Obama we trust
Whether or not you agree with Barack Obama’s politics, there’s no denying his bracket success since he’s been in office. The president has successfully picked a national champion during his presidential tenure (the University of North Carolina in 2009), and he’s had some of the best brackets year after year. He may be bending the rules with the help of those top aides, but don’t doubt the Commander-in-Chief’s basketball knowledge.
Rule No. 4: Watch for No. 12, 11 seeds
If there’s one rule one must follow, it’s this one. No. 12 and 11 seeds will usurp their opponents. History says there is a 32 percent chance that a No. 12 spot will beat a fifth-seeded team and there is also a 33 percent chance a No. 11 seed will beat its sixth-seeded opponent. Both Virginia Commonwealth University and George Mason University were No. 11 seeds when each team made their run to the Final Four in 2011 and 2006, respectively.
Rule No. 5: Mid-majors in Sweet 16
It’s that time of year again when you hear the names of schools like Xavier University, Creighton University, La Salle University and any other odd-sounding mid-major school. These teams are bracket busters like none other. Each year, there’s at least one mid-major team that makes it to the Sweet 16, and that trend will most certainly continue this year. La Salle made it to the Sweet 16 last season, as well as underdog Florida Gulf Coast University.
Rule No. 6: Syracuse University always disappoints
Don’t pick Syracuse. Besides the fact that the Orangemen are 2-5 in their last seven games and look poised to get bounced in the first round, Syracuse almost always disappoints in the tournament. In his 37 seasons as Syracuse’s coach, Jim Boeheim has led Syracuse to just one national title and only four Final Four appearances. For comparison, Duke University coach Mike Krzyzewski has won four national titles and has been to 11 Final Fours.
Rule No. 7: Don’t trust ESPN
Our friends at ESPN will tell you they have your back when it comes to picking the perfect bracket, but they don’t. ESPN wants to confuse you by televising hours of “breakdown coverage” and entice you to fill out 10 different brackets. Keep your eyes off of Digger Phelps’ and Dick Vitale’s brackets. Turn off the TV and go with your instincts.
Rule No. 8: Flip a coin
Experts will tell you to really focus on the No. 8-9 seed matchups, but there is no reason to do such a thing. Statistically speaking, the eighth-seeded team wins just 51 percent of the time. So if a team is on the eight or nine lines, flip a coin.
Rule No. 9: Experience matters
“Diaper dandies” often live up to their hype during the NCAA Tournament, but it’s the teams with the most experience make deep runs. Teams like Florida, Michigan State and the University of Louisville all have senior experience and coaches that have won the tournament before. If you’re deciding between a young University of Kentucky team or an experienced Arizona squad, pick the latter.
Rule No. 10: Ten minutes or less
I saved the most important rule for last. Some people think you should spend hours scouting each team and make informed decisions when filling out your bracket. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. The best brackets are the ones I have spent no more than 10 minutes filling out. Don’t overthink it. There’s a reason they call it March Madness.
May the odds be in your favor.