The most exciting playoff in sports is back, so get your brackets out, hide them from your boss and get ready for a lesson in Bracketology to take your March Madness pool for all it’s worth.
Before you start feverishly scribbling down your picks, there are a few things you must know to give yourself the best possible chance at getting those coveted bragging rights around the water cooler (and maybe a few bucks).
If you followed college hoops even casually for most of the season, you know who you like. If there is a team from each quadrant that you know you like to head to the Final Four or Elite Eight, put them there first then fill out the rest. This will prevent you from talking yourself out of your picks when filling it out solely round-by-round.
We've all had those moments where we curse ourselves for overthinking a pick. It’s enough to make you want to kick the closest cat (or at least repeatedly call yourself stupid out loud), which probably won’t make you too popular with its owner. So to prevent yourself from having that Twix “Wanna Get Away?” moment, (and possible legal ramifications) read on.
This is where the next tip comes in: go with your gut. If you had an inkling of who might win the 8-9 matchup, go with it because there’s probably a reason you felt that way. In short, when in doubt, throw second-guesses out.
Now onto the true Bracketology tips.
The best thing you can do for yourself right now is to watch Championship Week. The teams that get hot and make a run in their conference tournaments often carry momentum into the field of 64. A perfect example of this is last year when UConn won five games in five days to win the Big East Tournament, which fueled the No. 3 seed’s run at capturing the national championship.
If you think you have completed your bracket, look again. Look particularly at the 5-12 matchups. If you don’t have at least one No. 12 seed upsetting a No. 5 seed, you aren't done. Since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985, the No. 12 seed has pulled the upset 36 times in those 26 years. Richmond was the last to do it last year.
Since, on average, this upset has happened at least once per year, you can bank on there being one No. 12 seed advancing, if not more. You need to have one in your bracket as it has become more of a rule than an exception.
If you find yourself reviewing your bracket and you have all of the No. 1 seeds advancing to the Final Four, you may want to reconsider. Since the current format began in 1985, only once have all four No. 1 seeds advanced to the Final Four (2008).
Also, don’t listen to the analysts. Each year every analyst picks that year’s version of George Mason, Butler or VCU and tries to peg which team will become the newest Cinderella. However, they’re usually wrong. Nobody picked George Mason in 2006 and nobody picked VCU last year.
Cinderellas are usually out of left field and if you try to pick them and have them going deep, it could spoil your bracket. Also remember not to get cute with any seeds 14 or higher because you’re generally wasting your time.
Let’s face it; a perfect bracket is next to impossible, but it’s the sensible ones with subtle upsets that usually get the job done. Now it’s time to watch Championship Week, take mental notes and get cracking as soon as the field is announced. Now you’re ready.
Let the Madness begin.