With less than 24 hours to go before the first game of this year’s NCAA tournament, here are some strategies that could help you when completing your bracket.
I took filling mine out very seriously last year, and that eventually helped me win my pool as I predicted the Final Four perfectly.
First off, there are a ton of analysts out there who are giving their opinions; if we tried to listen to all of them, we’d never be able to pick a game.
I say find one analyst you like (or believe) and go with what he is saying about teams. I like Jay Bilas this year, and he has influenced a lot of my picks thus far.
Don’t get caught up in picking a team because you think one guy could carry them. I’ve done this many times before, thinking players like Josh Childress, O.J. Mayo, or even Hakim Warrick could do it all by themselves. In the end, I was disappointed and out of my tournament pool in the first weekend.
It’s not unheard of for a future NBA star to go out very early in the tourney due to a lack of touches or help. Team ball and experience are much more important, with a great example being last year's iteration of the Kansas Jayhawks.
Remember to look at how a team fared in their conference tournament. I know a lot of analysts think that losing early in a conference tournament will help because of the extra rest that provides for, but in my opinion, playing deep in these conference tournaments is the best way to prepare for the real thing.
Don’t get pressured into picking a lot of upsets, as it’s almost impossible to get all of them right. No one will ever have a perfect bracket.
If there is an upset you think is possible, maybe instead of predicting it, just pick the favorite to win but not go as far as they may be projected.
I took this approach with three-seed Wisconsin and two-seed Georgetown last year. I knew they’d be upset, but I didn’t know by whom.
I wasn’t correct about the actual upsets, as it was Davidson that got to the Elite Eight, but my bracket was prepared for Kansas to advance to the Final Four because of the easy road I saw for them.
This year, everyone has seen Big East basketball more than any other conference, so naturally, we all probably have them a little overrated. When I first went through making my predictions, I had a lot of Big East teams getting a round or two further than they were seeded.
You have to be careful here. Originally, I picked West Virginia and Marquette to get to the Sweet Sixteen as six-seeds, but have since changed this. Although I do still feel Kansas is overrated, I feel like they would have a better chance than West Virginia getting to the Elite Eight or further, so I picked the favorite, to be safe.
I have not seen a lot of Missouri this year, so they’re probably a little better than I think in my mind, so I’m going to go with them as well.
Also, since I do feel that upsets are possible here, I have both Memphis and Michigan State reaching the Elite Eight instead of an upset.
I know this may be lame, as I'm not really going out on a limb, but I can almost guarantee that with this strategy, you will have more teams remaining in the tournament to root for when the second weekend comes around.
When it comes down to it, if you’re not sure who to pick to go all the way, pick someone you want to root for. This is a year where almost every one, two, three, or four seed has a chance to get to the Final Four, so it really is a toss-up.
At the beginning of the season, I picked Louisville, and that is my excuse for having them go all of the way now. I love the team and their season reminds me of Kansas’ last year.
In the end, if you don’t get the champion right, you pretty much have no chance of winning a pool, anyway.
Focus more time on who you think will win it all. You can still root for the upsets even if you didn’t pick them, because someone who picks one upset will probably pick a lot more and screw themselves in the end.
Of course, you could ignore all this and just copy President Obama’s bracket. You'd probably be pretty safe.