At this point in the year, every March Madness enthusiast will put their best efforts forward to produce a perfect 2014 NCAA tournament bracket. Sure, the odds of that are, let's just say, highly unlikely; however, that won't stop anyone.
To ensure that you put together the best-possible bracket, there are many things to be considered. You could get lucky by flipping a coin or picking by the better mascot or a team's colors, but there are a few tournament trends to know that could prove to be more beneficial.
Let's break down all the need-to-know information to ensure that you come away with a stellar 2014 NCAA tournament bracket.
Don't Get Cute
This is pretty straightforward. There is no bigger mistake than to pick a No. 16 seed to upset a No. 1 seed in Round 2 of the NCAA tournament. It has never happened before, and it won't happen this year.
Although No. 2 seeds saw some trouble last year (see: No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast versus No. 2 Georgetown), 2014 doesn't feature any come-out-of-nowhere teams.
It's easy. Don't get cute, and advance all No. 1 and 2 seeded teams.
Beware of No. 5 Seeds
No. 5 seeds have not fared relatively well in Round 2 of the NCAA tournament in the past. According to Jon Machota of The Dallas Morning News, No. 5 seeds have only won 64.7 percent of the time since 1985.
This means that in 2014, there will likely be one fifth seed that will be sent home very early. This year, watch out for a surging No. 12 North Dakota State team that has the best shooting percentage in the nation against struggling No. 5 Oklahoma.
Oklahoma could be the team to bite the dust here; however, St. Louis cannot be overly confident considering its late-season run of four losses in its last five games.
Don't Get Too Wild
When picking your Final Four representatives, don't go overboard. History shows that two of these teams will likely be No. 1 seeds, and the others will be seeded four or lower. Machota touched on this phenomenon as well:
Use some math. History shows that when you add up your Final Four seeds, the total shouldn't go over 14. Only six times since 1979 has that number been higher than 14. For example, if you picked all No. 1 seeds, your total number would be four. The negative aspect of going with history is that two of the last three years the total has been over 14. It was 18 last year and 26 in 2011.
With this math in mind, if your Final Four has No. 1 Florida, No. 4 Michigan State, No. 1 Arizona and No. 4 Louisville, you're in good shape with your number totaling 10.
Drop No. 2 Seeds Early
You might be surprised to know that only once in the past 17 years did all four No. 2 seeds reached the Sweet 16 (2009). Overall, only five times since seeding began in 1979 have all four No. 2 seeds reached the Sweet 16 (1982, 1989, 1995, 1996, 2009).
Overall, No. 2s have 23 losses in the Round of 32 in this span (14 vs. No. 10 seeds, 9 vs. No. 7 seeds). Meanwhile, No. 1s have only eight losses in the same round over that span.
This statistic rings true for 2014.
No. 2 Kansas hasn't looked spectacular of late and will likely begin the tournament without Joel Embiid, as he continues to recover from a back injury.
No. 2 Villanova hasn't even looked like a contender of late, exiting early from the Big East tournament after being upset by Seton Hall.
The other No. 2s—Wisconsin and Michigan—have the unfortunate designation of playing in the West and Midwest Regions. These are arguably the most difficult in this year's tournament.
Coaches Win Championships
Jon Machota brings another very worthwhile stat to the table. It already well known that proven coaches fare well in the NCAA tournament—after all, they generally coach the nation's best squads. Machota's stat regarding coaches in this year's tournament is staggering:
Go with the proven coaches. The players change every year in college basketball but many of the coaches stay the same. Another way of overcoming a difficult decision is to pick the team with the more successful head coach. Eight coaches in this tournament have won 11 of the last 14 national championships. I'll take my chances with teams led by Mike Krzyzewski, Rick Pitino, Roy Williams, Billy Donovan, Jim Boeheim, Tom Izzo, Bill Self and John Calipari.
Keep these names in mind when looking at your Final Four and title game. If at least two of these coaches are present that late in your bracket, you're probably in good shape. However, if none of these above names made the cut, it may be time to rethink your strategy.
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