With the 2014 NCAA tournament field of 68 teams all set, March Madness has officially arrived, and so begins the quest to project the perfect bracket. Whether you're competing for cash, prizes, bragging rights or all three, your success will rely on putting together the right combination of hoops knowledge, guts and luck.
There's also a chance to win $1 billion if you nail the perfect bracket in Warren Buffett's challenge. Buffett spoke about the contest with ESPN's Rick Reilly:
I don't really care if somebody wins or not. All I'm concerned with is charging the right price. This has been my life. I knew as a young man that if I kept writing one deal after another deal, and charged the right price, in the end, I was going to make money.
Or maybe you're just looking for an easy way to track the results.
Either way, we'll get you set for all the pulse-pounding action with a printable bracket for this year's tournament and some important March Madness facts to consider before you make your picks.
Bracket Facts to Consider
No. 1 Seeds Typically Deliver
Although there are bound to be plenty of upsets this March, there's a good chance the title will be won by one of the four No. 1 seeds.
Keep in mind that a No. 1 seed has won six of the past seven NCAA tournaments and 11 of the past 15 tourneys dating back to the late 1990s. But recent tournaments have been unkind to the top dogs, as ESPN Stats & Info illustrates:
Being a No. 1 seed isn't what it used to be. Since '09, more No. 1 seeds have lost in Sweet 16 (6) than have made the Final Four (5).— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 5, 2014
It has only been three years since No. 3 Connecticut won it all in 2011. That was a year when all four No. 1 seeds were ousted prior to the Final Four, with three of them bouncing before the Elite Eight.
Still, the odds are certainly in favor of a pair of No. 1 seeds reaching the Final Four and at least one playing for the national championship. In the past 35 years, at least one No. 1 seed has reached the national semifinals 32 times.
A No. 2 Seed Will Likely Stumble Early
While No. 2 seeds have had a tough time winning it all of late, boasting just one national champion (Connecticut, 2004) since Kentucky won it all in 1998, they have also struggled to get through the first weekend.
Only once in the past 17 years have all four No. 2 seeds advanced to the Sweet Sixteen (2009). Last year, 15th-seeded Florida Gulf Coast knocked off No. 2 Georgetown in the round of 64 in the South Region.
The Eagles then followed it up by becoming the first No. 15 seed to reach the Sweet 16.
In 2012, two No. 2 seeds fell in their opening-round games as Norfolk State and Lehigh stunned Missouri and Duke, respectively. So, although we've seen No. 15 seeds have success of late, you're better off picking a No. 2 seed to bow out in the round of 32.
Target a No. 13 Seed for an Upset
Upsets come in all shapes and sizes come March, but recent history suggests that a No. 4 seed will fall in its very first game of the NCAA tournament this spring.
Which is more likely to happen in 2014?
2013 marked the sixth straight year that a No. 13 seed upended a No. 4 seed. After winning its First Four play-in game against Boise State, La Salle toppled Kansas State in the West Region, eventually reaching the Sweet 16 before losing to Wichita State.
While there's a very good chance a No. 13 seed will stun a No. 4 seed in 2014, don't expect more than one of them to march on to the round of 32. After all, there have only been three occasions when at least two No. 13 seeds have sprung upsets in the same tournament: 2008 marked the most recent occurrence, and before then, it happened only in 1987 and 2001.
If recent history holds up, you'll have a 25 percent chance of successfully predicting a big-time upset.
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