There may not be anything more beautiful in American sports than a fresh NCAA men's basketball tournament bracket, and the country will finally have the chance to get its hands on the 2016 version following Selection Sunday’s unveiling.
While plenty of fans will be rooting on their alma maters or favorite schools for potential Final Four berths, part of what makes March Madness so remarkable is the bracket. Even those without a school to root for can fill one out in an office pool and suddenly have a rooting interest.
With that in mind, here is a link for a printable bracket, as well as some important tips to remember when you are picking your winners.
Don’t Pick a No. 16 Seed
It may be tempting to make a splash in your pool by going with an incredible upset, but you shouldn’t do it. After all, it has never happened, and there is no reason to think this year will be any different.
Jerry Palm of CBS Sports noted that No. 16 seeds are 0-124 against No. 1 seeds in the history of the Big Dance.
Best of luck going against those numbers.
Don’t Assume All the No. 1 Seeds Will Advance to the Final Four
The No. 1 seeds aren’t going to lose to the No. 16 seeds, but chances are that they won’t all be playing on college basketball’s final weekend, either.
While Brad Evans of Yahoo Sports pointed out that more than 41 percent of the top seeds have reached to the Final Four since 1985, he also said the only time all four No. 1 seeds advanced to the championship weekend in the same year during that time frame was in 2008.
Forty-one percent is a big number, so you should pick some No. 1 seeds to reach the Final Four. Just make sure you don’t pick all of them.
Pick the Michigan State Spartans to Cut Down the Nets
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This is a personal prediction, but head coach Tom Izzo’s squad is going to capture the national championship.
The Spartans played some of their best basketball at the end of the season and should have plenty of momentum on their side heading to the Big Dance. They went 10-1 in their final 11 regular-season contests, and their only loss in that stretch was an 82-81 overtime heartbreaker at Purdue.
Just for good measure, they avenged their defeat to the Boilermakers in Sunday's Big Ten tournament championship game with a 66-62 win. It capped off an impressive three contests in Indianapolis for Michigan State with victories over Ohio State, Maryland and Purdue.
You don’t have to believe me when it comes to the Spartans. Take it from Izzo, per Mike Griffith of MLive.com: “In the 21 years I've been the head coach, we've gone to seven Final Fours, and three of them I thought we had a legitimate chance to win going in. I'm putting my neck on the line, this is the fourth where we have a legitimate chance to win.”
One reason Michigan State has a chance to win the title is the presence of a game-changing superstar to carry the load during March Madness’ tensest moments. There will be times in the one-and-done tournament when the season is on the line, and the Spartans have arguably the top player in college basketball, senior Denzel Valentine.
Valentine is a threat to post a triple-double every night, and he's averaging 19.6 points, 7.5 rebounds and 7.6 assists per game this year, per ESPN.com, as of Sunday. He proved his versatility by tallying triple-doubles against Kansas and Boston College, and he frequently controls the pace of the game as a 6’5” guard-forward hybrid.
The senior leader isn’t the only weapon at Izzo’s disposal.
Sharpshooting senior Bryn Forbes has shot an incredible 49.3 percent from three-point range this season on 6.6 attempts per night. He is second on the team with 14.6 points per game, per ESPN.com, as of Sunday, and even set a Big Ten record with 11 made three-pointers in a win against Rutgers, as Michigan State on BTN captured:
Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress had notable words after that outing:
That three-point marksmanship is important for the Spartans because it gives them another scorer to rely on outside of Valentine. If opposing defenses shift additional attention Valentine’s way, he will find Forbes spotting up from long range.
Outside the dynamic duo, Michigan State should be trusted because it is battle-tested with a number of quality wins. It has knocked off Kansas, Boise State, Providence, Louisville, Florida, Purdue and Maryland, among others, during the 2015-16 campaign and should be comfortable in the spotlight with two seniors directing the offense.
Izzo, one of the most proven coaches in the country, has seven Final Four appearances and a national championship on his resume and seemingly always gets the most out of his players in March.
Between the legendary coach on the sideline and Valentine and Forbes on the court, Michigan State will win the title this season.