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NCAA Tourney Bracket Tips

It’s that time of year when everyone is trying to fill out those brackets to gain bragging rights at the office for the next 12 months. Which team is going to be the one to sneak up and win a game or two (or three)? Will it be Penn, Kent State, Western Kentucky, Hawaii, Southern Illinois? Or maybe someone totally different. Anyway, that’s what everyone is trying to figure out as we near the deadline for submitting your bracket to the head-bracket-dude. But as you read the bracketing tips below, remember that these come from a person who has not had much success in bracketing. Also, many of the tips below are based on the past 10-12 years or so. Trends are trends, but they sometimes change. So check ‘em out.....


  Tip One:  Grab a pencil. A pencil with a nice eraser because you’re probably going to need it. Maybe it’s that lucky pencil from when you won the bracket contest a few years back. Or maybe you’ve never had any bracketing luck. Either way, a pencil with a good eraser is definitely the way to go.

Upsets/Year (1st Round)
Year
# of Upsets
’90
7
’91
9
’92
8
’93
6
’94
9
’95
8
’96
9
’97
7
’98
9
’99
12
’00
3
’01
13
  Tip Two:  Take it one round at a time. Think about what you’re doing each round. There are 32 first round games. Over the past 12 years, there has been an average of 8.3 upsets per year in the first round. An upset is being defined as a larger-number seed (such as 9) beating a smaller-number seeded team (such as 8). Using the chart, maybe you can spot a pattern and guess the number of upsets that will occur this year. You shouldn’t pick less than 5 upsets or more than a dozen, in my opinion. There will always be upsets, and you can always pick them. Just hope you pick the right ones.

  Tip Three:  Pick the #1 seeds in the first round. A number one seed has never lost to a #16 in the first round. Go ahead and pencil them as first round winners. Also remember, though, that all four of the #1 seeds have never all made it to the Final Four in the same year.

  Tip Four:  Plan your upsets wisely. There will probably not be as
Avgerage Upsets
Matchup
Average # of Upsets
1 vs 16
0
8 vs 9
2.25
5 vs 12
1.3
4 vs 13
0.75
6 vs 11
1.0
3 vs 14
0.67
7 vs 10
1.92
2 vs 15
0.33
many 13’s beating 4’s as there will be 10’s beating 7’s. In fact, for example, over the last 12 years, a #9 seed has actually beaten (in an upset) the #8 seed more than the #8 has beaten the #9. The chart shows the average number of upsets of each variety per year (number of 8 vs 9, 7 vs 10, etc.). Obviously, these numbers don’t hold up for every single year. For example, although there’s only an average of 2 upsets per year in the 7 vs 10 game, the 10 seed won all four games in 1999. So you can use the stats but also your own judgement.

  Tip Five:  Know the teams. Certain teams have a reputation as being a team that flops each and every year. Other teams have a reputation of being seeded bad and playing well in the Tournament. This requires homework and a good memory on your part. Kansas is one of those teams with a reputation for heading home early. Since 1990, they’ve been seeded the following numbers: 2, 3, 1, 2, 4, 1, 2, 1, 1, 6, 8, & 4. Of those twelve years, they’ve only been to the Elite 8 three years and the championship game one year. They haven’t won a national championship in the past twelve years. On the other hand, Gonzaga is a team that has over-achieved over the past few years. Over the past three seasons, they’ve been seeded 10, 10, and 12. They’ve gone to the Elite 8, the Sweet 16, and the Sweet 16 again. These are just 2 examples of teams that either under- or over-achieve. These teams can easily ruin your bracket on the first day.

Year
Champ. Game
Champion
’90
1 vs 3
1
’91
2 vs 3
2
’92
1 vs 6
1
’93
1 vs 1
1
’94
1 vs 2
1
’95
1 vs 2
1
’96
1 vs 4
1
’97
1 vs 4
4
’98
2 vs 3
2
’99
1 vs 1
1
’00
1 vs 5
1
’01
1 vs 2
1
  Tip Six:  One seeds almost never play each other for the national championship, but a one seed almost always wins it. As you can see from the chart, the championship game has almost always been a 1 vs someone else over the past 12 seasons. However, the one has won the championship every year except one that it has played in the game. In simpler terms, if a one makes it to the championship game, which it usually does, it wins the game most of the time. Even simpler, a #1 seed has won the national championship 75% of the time since 1990.

  Tip Seven:  Go with your gut. A lot of times, what you think is the right thing turns out to be just that. Statistics are history, of the past. This year’s tournament is the present. And believe me, these guys don’t sit down and look at the stats to see if they’re going to win or not. Every teams goes out there thinking they’re going to win. Statistics are what they are because of what happened in the past, and obviously, this year’s results will change the statistics.


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