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March Madness 2014 Bracket: Betting Advice, Historical Trends and Predictions

FILE - In this March 24, 2013, file photo, Florida Gulf Coast's Sherwood Brown, center, celebrates with teammates after their 81-71 win over San Diego State in a third-round game in the NCAA college basketball tournament in Philadelphia. Florida Gulf Coast became the first No. 15 seed to make the Sweet 16. (AP Photo/Michael Perez, File)
Michael Perez/Associated Press
Tim KeeneyContributor IMarch 16, 2014

There are, as Chris Traeger would say, literally an infinite amount of ways to fill out your NCAA tournament bracket. 

For the college basketball diehards, you can spend countless hours sifting through advanced statistical analysis, stringently compare each team's strengths and weakness against each other and still end up finishing last in your pool. 

 

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For those not nearly as interested in the intricacies of the game, you can pick your winners according to: favorite color; most adorable or most ferocious mascot; best-looking cheerleaders; teams with the highest grade-point averages; and of course, there's always the timeless strategy of either flipping a coin or throwing darts. 

If you're somewhere in the middle of those two groups—you care and are invested but don't necessarily have the time to do thorough research—a good approach is to let certain trends help fill your bracket and hope that history repeats itself. 

That being said, let's take a look at some of the strongest trends in recent years and how to interpret them in order to bet on this year's tourney.  

 

Don't Get Too "Final Four Happy" With the Top Seeds

Bill Boyce/Associated Press

You'd have to go back to 2008 to find the last time all four No. 1 seeds—Kansas, Memphis, North Carolina and UCLAadvanced to the Final Four. In fact, dating back to 1985, when the field was expanded to 64 teams, that's the only time every top seed advanced that far. Furthermore, only three times—and zero instances since 2000have three No. 1 seeds made it to the Final Four.

Moreover, as ESPN Stats & Info pointed out, recent history has seen more No. 1 seeds upset in the Sweet 16 than advance to the Final Four:

Add in a year that has featured tons of parity, and you should stay away from the chalk. You'd be better off picking just one or two top seeds to make it through their respective region. 

 

But You Should Pick One to Win the Title

EUGENE, OR - MARCH 8: Nick Johnson #13 and Kaleb Tarczewski #35 of the Arizona Wildcats walk off the court during the second half of the game against the Oregon Ducks at Matthew Knight Arena on March 8, 2014 in Eugene, Oregon. Oregon won the game 64-57. (
Steve Dykes/Getty Images

While the tournament field tends to dwindle the amount of No. 1 seeds, it is hardly ever able to eliminate all of them. 

Once again going back to 1985, 18-of-29 national champions have been top seeds. Furthermore, six of the last seven winners have been top seeds, including Peyton Siva and Louisville last year. You'd have to go all the way back to No. 4 Arizona in 1997 to find a champion that was seeded worse than No. 3. 

You can feel free to get nice and crazy with your upsets, but it's always a good idea to come back to a top-ranked team in the middle of your bracket. 

 

Cross a No. 2 Out Early

You might remember a team that goes by the name of Florida Gulf Coast. Perhaps better known as "Dunk City," the Eagles put on an absolute show last year, knocking off No. 2 Georgetown in the second round before taking care of San Diego State to advance to the Sweet 16. 

It was the third time in the past two tournamentsLehigh over Duke and Norfolk State over Missouri in 2012—that a No. 15 seed has bounced a No. 2 seed. 

Now, picking that kind of upset isn't exactly the safest propositionNo. 2 seeds are now just 7-116 all time against No. 15 seeds—but it's worth it to at least pick one No. 2 seed to lose on the first weekend. 

Only once in the past 17 years have all four No. 2 seeds reached the Sweet 16. 

 

For Your Second-Round Upsets, Look to the No. 12 and 13 Seeds

The No. 5 vs. No. 12 game has become the most popular place to look for a "major upset" in the second round, and that's for good reason. Not counting the "First Four" games, No. 12 seeds have won at least one contest in 23 of the past 25 tournaments. 

Last year, three of the four No. 12's won their second-round games. Oregon and Mississippi both took care of their opponents (Oklahoma State and Wisconsin, respectively) by double digits, while Cal got revenge on UNLV for a narrow loss earlier in the year. 

At some point, these won't be called upsets anymore. 

Of course, No. 13 seeds have also been joining the party as of late, knocking off a No. 4 at least once in each of the past six years. "First Four"-winner La Salle was the most recent one to do so, beating Kansas State in 2013. 

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