10 Things to Reconsider About Your 2013 March Madness Bracket
There's nothing wrong with filling out your bracket as the regions are being announced.
It's a Selection Sunday pastime like no other to curl up on the couch with a blank bracket and pencil—only a fool would fill out a bracket in permanent ink—and have the whole thing covered in chicken scratch less than 15 minutes after the pairings are revealed.
You don't actually want to submit that bracket to anything other than memory, though.
A lot of people view their bracket as something that needs to be finished as quickly as possible to avoid second-guessing themselves into making a poor decision.
But you're smarter than they are. You know there are scores of things you may have forgotten or neglected in the heat of passion.
Here are 10 important things to take into consideration before turning in that official bracket. And in case you've already permanently ruined your first bracket, you'll find the necessary links on the last slide to help you hit the reset button.
Akron Is Without Its Starting Point Guard
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If there are just two trends you know about how the bracket historically shakes out, it's probably that a No. 16 seed has never beaten a No. 1 seed and that a No. 12 seed almost always beats a No. 5 seed.
I promise this is not the No. 12 seed that's going to pull it off this year.
Akron's starting point guard, Alex Abreu, was arrested and charged with possession and drug trafficking and subsequently suspended from the team less than two weeks ago.
It's hard enough to beat VCU when your team is at full strength. Without Abreu, the Zips are asking freshman Carmelo Betancourt to come off the bench as their primary ball-handler against a team that forces 1.1 more steals per game than any other team in the nation.
What could possibly go wrong for Akron? Only everything. If you have Akron over VCU, get that eraser out of the drawer.
Florida Is Winless Away from Home Against the RPI Top 58
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Prior to the neutral-court win over Alabama in the SEC tournament, the Gators were 0-5 away from home against the RPI Top 75. Fifty-eight isn't nearly as round of a number as 75, but the fact remains that they have zero wins and six losses against tournament-caliber teams when they don't get to play them at home.
And it's not as if those games came against the upper echelon of the basketball world. They were against a No. 4 seed (Kansas State), a No. 6 seed (Arizona), a No. 9 seed (Missouri), a No. 12 seed (Mississippi) and a pair of NIT representatives (Kentucky and Tennessee).
So before you go picking the Gators to go to the Final Four because you think Georgetown is the weakest No. 2 seed, keep in mind they would need to win four games in Texas to get that far.
I've been hammering this point home for a while, and it's gotten me a reputation as a Gators hater. In the words of Joe Friday: "Just the facts, ma'am." I harbor no ill will toward Florida's basketball team aside from the memory of Joakim Noah.
Keith Appling Is in a Colossal Slump Right Now
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In Michigan State's past nine games, starting point guard Keith Appling has played 311 minutes, recording 19 assists, 21 turnovers and shooting just 21 percent from three-point range.
Just so we're clear, that's really, really bad.
It's one thing for an entire team to put together a sub-1.00 assist/turnover ratio for a stretch of games or even for the entire season, because non-ball-handlers are prone to create more turnovers than assists. But it's borderline unheard of for a point guard at a program like Michigan State to only average one assist every 16.4 minutes for more than a month.
If Appling doesn't turn it around in a hurry, Michigan State could very easily be heading home before the second weekend. Regardless of which of the three potential teams they draw in their second game, the Spartans will need to be ready to compete in a fast-paced, scrappy game.
That's difficult to do with stats like those from your point guard.
The Mountain West Conference Does Not Do Well
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Over the past three tournaments, the Mountain West has sent 11 teams to the NCAA tournament, resulting in a grand total of seven wins—three of which came from BYU before departing for the West Coast Conference.
Compare that against the ACC, which has 22 wins from 14 teams over the past three tournaments. That includes both a national championship and a first-round exit from Duke.
UNLV has been particularly bad in recent years, losing in the first round in each of the past three seasons. Remember that thing I said about No. 12 seeds always upsetting at least one No. 5 seed? Lo and behold, UNLV is a No. 5 seed.
I love New Mexico this year as much as the next guy, but based on recent history, it would just be irresponsible to pick it past the Sweet 16.
Home-Court Advantage Has Been Huge This Season
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It's been something of a broken record to say that (insert team) has played fabulously at home, but it just seems unable to play on the road. Iowa State, Marquette and the entire Southeastern Conference come to mind.
If that translates to the NCAA tournament, we're going to have an incredibly chalky opening weekend.
Both Kansas and Kansas State play its first two games in Kansas City. Ohio State and Indiana will likely be taking a bus to its opening-round games in Dayton. Louisville has a cozy trip to Lexington. And despite my earlier cautions about the Spartans, you have to like the odds for Michigan and Michigan State playing in Auburn Hills.
If you want to pick a top-four seed to lose in the first two rounds, you might want it to be in subregions other than those—perhaps the ones in which Syracuse and Saint Louis travel to San Jose. Duke isn't exactly a stone's throw from Philadelphia either, for what it's worth.
Always Consider Strengths and Weaknesses
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Having a little trouble deciding between Butler and Bucknell in the first round?
Chances are you're not alone.
Take a look at Butler's stats in its eight losses, and it's pretty clear the Bulldogs struggle against aggressive defenses, with opponents averaging 9.6 steals against them in those games. Look instead at Bucknell's stats, and you see a team that's 346th in the nation with just 3.6 steals per game. Given that there are "only" 347 teams, that's not very good.
That's more than enough to swing me over to Butler's side, no matter how strong my man crush is for Mike Muscala.
Feeling great about your pick in North Carolina vs. Villanova? Neither was I at first.
I looked at the Wildcats' stats to try to figure out how they could beat four Top 25 teams in the same season that they were swept by Providence and lost at home to Columbia by 18 points. What I saw is a team that relies very heavily on free throws. In fact, they lead the nation in free throws made and attempted.
Whether it's because they play disciplined defense or don't play much defense at all, the Tar Heels don't often foul, keeping their opponent from scoring at the charity stripe. In the past seven games of their regular season, they didn't once allow an opponent to attempt more than 15 free throws.
When in doubt, find a team's forte or Achilles' heel and see how well its opponent is going to deal with it.
The Curse of the No. 1 Overall Seed
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Like the double-bye in the Big East tournament, the No. 1 overall seed should be both sought after and feared.
Can Louisville possibly break both curses in a span of 22 days?
Nine years ago, the selection committee officially started announcing the No. 1 overall seed. Recipients of the inaugural award, the 2004 Kentucky Wildcats, lost a second-round game to UAB, obliterating rooting interest for roughly 99 percent of the people who filled out brackets that season.
Subsequent teams haven't fared much better. Florida won it all in 2007, and Kentucky did the same in 2012. But only one other top dog has made it to the championship game (Illinois in 2005), and only the 2008 Tar Heels advanced to the Final Four before bowing out.
In case you lost count, that leaves five out of nine No. 1 overall seeds that didn't even make it out of their own region. And goodness gracious, does Louisville have a difficult Midwest to survive.
Always Pick a Thursday Night Upset
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In three of the past four tournaments, one of the last four games to be played on the first night of the tournament has featured a significant upset—either a No. 11 or No. 12 seed pulling out a win.
Who do we have playing the late games this year?
Missouri and Colorado State tip at 9:20 p.m. ET, but that doesn't really qualify as an upset.
VCU and Akron tip off at 9:45 p.m., but we've already ruled that one out.
That leaves either Harvard over New Mexico or Montana over Syracuse.
Personally, I'm fond of the Grizzlies. It's tempting enough just to consider it's an East Coast team playing a late game against a "West Coast" team in California. It's even more tempting when you realize Montana shoots 38.5 percent from long range, and that's by far the best way to beat the patented Jim Boeheim zone.
Couldn't fault you for going with Harvard, though, after mentioning the Mountain West's tournament history a few slides ago.
Pick Some Double-Digit Seeds to the Sweet 16
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For one thing, picking all of the favorites is boring. When all the No. 1 seeds made it to the Final Four in 2008, it made for some great games, but no one was impressed if you got them all correct.
Now, if you had all the Final Four teams and had Davidson pegged as an Elite Eight team, that's much more impressive. My perennially successful stat bracket did exactly that in 2008.
Look, there's going to be at least one double-digit seed in the Sweet 16. We've had 14 total over the past five years, with at least one in each tournament.
Even if you aren't particularly fond of any of this year's options, you have to pick at least one just so you can look really smart if it happens. When New Mexico State makes it to the Sweet 16, Nate Silver will be calling to ask how I projected that one.
(If you think I'm completely crazy on New Mexico State, check out this interesting interactive article about how height plays a key role in the tournament.)
Always Leave Your Rooting Interest Out of Your Bracket
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If you graduated from Liberty, go ahead and pick the Flames to win the play-in game, but you'd be out of your mind to pick them to beat Louisville.
Similarly, if you bleed Big Blue Nation, don't pick against Louisville in the first round just because you hate them. If anything, it'll make you even more furious if the Cardinals win it all.
Obviously those are dramatic examples, but when one of your favorite or least favorite teams is involved in a game, make sure you take an extra step back and really look at things objectively.
It's been well documented that I'm a Duke fan. In news to you, Michigan State has been destroying my bracket for the better part of the past 12 seasons. If I take the Spartans to the Final Four, they lose in the first round, or vice versa. You can imagine my dismay when I saw Duke and MSU paired for a potential Sweet 16 game.
When in doubt, take to a friend or the Internet to see what everyone else is thinking. If 98 percent of people have your team losing before the Elite Eight, suck it up and do the same. Because if you don't and it loses, it's a double whammy.