March Madness 2012: 4 NCAA Bracket Tips You Need to Know
It’s March Madness. The best sporting event of the year. Do it right! If you have sick days, use them. If you have friends, find them. I’ll be making myself at home at the MGM Grand Sportsbook in Vegas over the next few days in front of all the big screens, holding a glass of scotch with a few of my best WiseGuys next to me. Okay, so I’ll most likely be drinking amaretto sours with a straw and cherry on top. Don’t judge.
Need some help filling out your bracket? No worries, big guy. I got you. All you really need to know is covered in this slideshow. If you’ve already finished and submitted your bracket, go ahead and change it when you’re done reading. You can thank me later—with an amaretto sour.
1. Don't Try to Be a Hero, Pal
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So you think you’re special because you have No. 11 NC State and No. 10 Xavier in your Final Four? Yep, have fun watching the tournament after your bracket is busted by the end of this weekend. I know, I know, we did have an No. 8 and a No. 11 seed in last year’s semifinals. Big deal. That won’t happen again for a while.
As a matter of fact, in the last 10 tournaments prior to last season, only one team seeded below No. 5 (George Mason in 2006) advanced to the Final Four. That’s one team out of 40.
Furthermore, since 1991, 53 out of the 84 Final Four teams have been either No. 1 or No. 2 seeds (that’s 63 percent). Go ahead and take a chance with one middle seed if you really like a particular team, but then make sure the rest of your Final Four is filled with big guns.
2. Use Vegas Lines for Early Upset Opportunities
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Now that we know to play it safe in later rounds, how about opening weekend? If you can nail down a few upsets in the first four days, it will put you near the top of the leaderboard right off the bat and in good position to make a run at the cash.
But which of the lower seeds should you pick to win a game or two? You can watch ESPN or do research online ‘till you’re blue in the face, but the best way to measure the chances of an upset—and to gain valuable points on the rest of your pool—is to check the lines for individual games. Trust me, Vegas bookmakers know better than everyone else.
First round games that fit the bill this year: No. 12 Long Beach State is just a four-point underdog to No. 5 New Mexico (I have LB State winning two games), No. 14 Belmont is only a 3.5-point dog to No. 3 Georgetown and No. 11 seed NC State is actually a 2.5-point favorite over No. 6 San Diego State.
3. Don't Count out the Women in Your Pool
It never fails. You check your pool’s online message board and see that your former college roommate’s friend says that his coworker Megan is joining in. Megan makes a post greeting everyone and announces she knows nothing about basketball and is “just doing it for fun.”
We all know how this story ends. Megan ends up winning the whole thing and buys herself a brand new shoe collection with all of our money. Some kind of “experts” we are! The kicker: Megan let her second-grade students pick most of the games and then decided on the rest by choosing which mascot she liked better.
Moral of the story (from personal experience): Do not talk tournament trash to females—especially in writing. It will come back to haunt you!
4. Listen to Me
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Those of you who follow my daily picks at WiseGuySports know that despite my winning records in the NBA and NHL this year, college hoops has not been my strength (112-131-12 against the spread). No worries—I’ve decided to save the best for last. Here are a few notes from my bracket:
I have just two teams seeded below No. 5 advancing to the Sweet 16; No. 8 Kansas State will beat Syracuse in the second round to get there and No. 13 Belmont will be this year’s Cinderella by upsetting Georgetown and then NC State opening weekend.
Elite Eight: No. 1 Kentucky, No. 3 Baylor, No.1 Michigan State, No. 3 Marquette, No. 5 Vanderbilt, No. 2 Ohio State, No. 1 UNC, No. 2 Kansas.
Final Four: No. 1 Kentucky, No. 3 Marquette, No. 1 UNC, No. 2 Ohio State.
Championship game: Kentucky 76, UNC 71.
Do yourself a favor and go with Kentucky to win it all. They are the best team in the tournament. Remember, this isn’t a popularity contest. You are trying to win money here.
The last thing you want to happen is to have a very successful bracket—until the very end where you fall off the leaderboard because you picked Louisville to win it all.
Bottom line: Take a few chances early, stick with the chalk towards the end.