The 2014 NCAA tournament starts soon and odds are you will be participating in some sort of bracket pool, be it amongst friends, at the office or anywhere else.
Instead of being the chump with the lowest scoring bracket that everyone pokes fun at, this is the year that you will blow everyone away and look like a college basketball guru with your incredible predictions.
Mistakes to Avoid
Putting All No. 1 seeds in Final Four
It’s exceedingly rare that all four No. 1 seeds advance through their respective regions and meet up in the Final Four. That isn’t to say it hasn’t happened, but you’ll want to bet against it in 2014.
2008 was the first and only time in the history of the tournament that the selection committee was 100 percent right and installed the four best teams as the top seeds in the Big Dance.
North Carolina head coach Roy Williams praised the committee’s choices that year, as his Tar Heels nabbed a top seed and advanced to the Final Four before losing to eventual champion Kansas, per ESPN’s Andy Katz:
It would definitely substantiate that those four teams [UCLA, UNC, Kansas, Memphis] are the best four teams in the country. It's validation for the committee, and I do believe that each one of those teams would have a great deal of pride that they did that. But at the end, the cruel thing about this tournament is that only one team will be standing at the end.
It hasn’t happened since and it likely won’t anytime soon, especially with such a shaky group at the top of the tourney.
While Florida undoubtedly deserves its status as the top seed, the Gators are lacking a bona fide star. They have no one to truly take over when the game is on the line and it could end up costing UF this March.
Wichita State is also one of the most controversial No. 1 seeds in the long history of this event, as the Shockers hardly defeated any noteworthy opponents on the way to an undefeated record and a Missouri Valley Conference championship.
CBS’ Doug Gottlieb pointed out that they didn’t overcome any team that deserved better than a No. 5 seed during the regular season:
Wichita State has 31 wins- 0 losses , zero games versus a top 5 seed— Doug Gottlieb (@GottliebShow) March 2, 2014
Jon Rothstein of CBS backed that sentiment up, saying this squad is not worthy of a top seed:
Wichita State deserves congrats on an undefeated season. Shockers are clearly better than last year. But that doesn't mean they're a 1 seed.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) March 1, 2014
With so much flak surrounding this No. 1 seed alone, it’s safe to say that the 2014 edition of the Final Four isn’t going to mirror the 2008 version in terms of seeding.
Picking No. 16 over No. 1
While there is a legion of haters that believe Wichita State is a pretender, you’ll be hard-pressed to find any that think the Shockers are going to be bounced in the second round.
In fact, anyone who picks a No. 16 over a No. 1 seed on their bracket deserves to be shamed, as it simply isn’t going to happen. It hasn’t ever occurred in the long and illustrious history of March Madness, an event that is known for incredible upsets and miraculous victories by high seeds over low seeds.
Florida Gulf Coast captured the nation’s attention last tournament, but it was still a No. 15 seed that knocked off a No. 2 and No. 7 before eventually falling in the Sweet 16.
A No. 16 has never advanced past the opening round and this just isn’t the year to pick that unless you simply do not care about your bracket.
Warren Buffet promised a billion dollars to the person who predicts a perfectly correct bracket, but he should be willing to quadruple that if it involves a No. 16 seed winning a game in the tournament and someone actually projected that.
The No. 16 seeds aren’t in the same class as the No. 1’s this year and it shouldn’t even be close.
Smart Pick: Take (at least one) No. 12 over No. 5
Here is the upset you will want to get behind, the No. 12 over the No. 5 seed. It is a classic occurrence that takes place on a seemingly yearly basis.
Will a No. 12 upset a No. 5 seed this year?
Oregon, California and Mississippi all won as No. 12 seeds last year, beating overrated No. 5 teams. The selection committee seems to load this matchup with the right recipes for an upset and that will be the case again in 2014.
Not convinced? Just look at the stats. Since the tournament expanded to 64-plus teams in 1985, the No. 12 has beaten the No. 5 seed a whopping 41 times.
Thomas Northcutt provided a reminder for those filling out their brackets this week:
At least one 12 seed has upset a 5 in the NCAA tournament every year this century except '06. Remember this next week. #YoureWelcome— Thomas Northcutt (@RealTCutt) March 12, 2014
You do not want to go against seven straight years (and 12 of 13 tournaments since the new millennium) of history, so make sure you have at least one, possibly two No. 12 seeds knocking out a No. 5 in March Madness.