34 Tips for the Ultimate NCAA Tournament Bracket

Jeff PencekCorrespondent IIMarch 17, 2010

NEW YORK - MARCH 11:  Andy Rautins #1 of the Syracuse Orange handles the ball during the quarterfinal of the 2010 NCAA Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden on March 11, 2010 in New York City.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Initially, this article was to be 65 tips, but luckily Winthrop does not matter, so less work for me. Thank you play-in game.

Then, I realized that combining 64 rules could be successfully done well after brackets are done. So instead, here are 34 tidbits of betting fun.

I'm doing 34 tips as a Corliss Williamson tribute to the 1994 bracket that started all of my crazy analysis patterns.

Filling out the perfect bracket is almost impossible, but here in this magical article, I will lay out tips and guidelines to make your bracket smart, so smart you may even beat the person who knows nothing and just puts all No. 1 seeds into the Final 4.

Use these 34 points as a baseline for your instincts, and you can be on the way to office and gambling glory.

1. I'm not a fan of Duke. I think California or Louisville could beat them in the second round. Yet I have them in the sweet 16. In fact, put all of the No. 1 seeds in the sweet 16. Only three of the last 11 years have all four No. 1 seeds not made the sweet 16. Five years in a row they have.

2. After Duke makes the Sweet 16, get rid of them quickly. Since 2002, Duke has made it past the sweet 16 once, in 2004. Maybe you think the bracket is weak and advance them to the Elite 8, but it's a big risk and Duke has let past bracket people down before.

3. Put two No. 1 seeds in the Final 4. In seven of the last 11 years, at least two No. 1 seeds have made the Final 4.

4. Put no more than two No. 1 seeds in the Final 4. During the same period, only two years has more than two No. 1 seeds made it, in 1999 and 2008.

5. The last six No. 4 and No. 5 seeds that have played in Florida have lost. Temple is on immediate upset watch Friday afternoon.

6. Only four Nos. 14-16 seeds have won games in the last 11 years. Even though I like Sam Houston St. and Oakland as crazy sleepers, advancing them in the bracket is a bad idea.

7. On average 10 of the chalk seeds (1-4) make the Sweet 16. Advance 10 or 11 of them in your bracket.

8. On average 24 of the chalk seeds (1-8) make the second round. Advance 25 of them and predict 7 upsets.

9. Pick a 13 seed to win in Round 1. Although they rarely win Round 2, a 13 seed has won 10 times in the last 11 years. Considering that Purdue looks frazzled and Wisconsin plays in Florida, we have a few candidates. Plus Vandy lost as a No. 4 seed two years ago.

10. Get rid of a No. 2 seed in Round 2. Villanova may look like a solid early round out here, and Ohio State and Kansas State also have early out possibilities. The 7-10 teams are pretty dangerous for both teams.

11. Advance one No. 2 seed to the Final 4. This is where predicting a bracket gets tricky. Pick the wrong team in Round 2, and you lose a lot of points. Oh, the joys of March.

12. If your local CBS affiliate is showing Clemson-Missouri, go to a bar and watch a different game. No reason to get angry at your bracket and basketball at the same time.

13. Respect the 3 seed. In five of the last seven years, at least three No. 3 seeds have made the Sweet 16. If you pick a No. 3 seed out in Round 2, make sure the No. 6 seed can beat them.

14. No. 4 seeds and No. 5 seeds have the same worth. Same amount of Sweet 16 appearances the last 11 years, same amount of Final 4s. Have a least one No. 5 seed in the sweet 16, it happens every year.

15. Following up on point No. 14, eliminate at least two No. 4 seeds before the sweet 16. The last time three No. 4 seeds made the sweet 16 was 2000, and that tournament was awful.

16. We can't rely on the Craig Bolerjack upset this year, since Spero Dedes is doing games instead. Is Spero an upset machine?

17. The 5-12 games are known for upsets; for now I address the betting. Utah State is +3, Cornell is +4, UTEP is +2.5 and New Mexico State is +13. I'm not making the last one up. Sam Houston State has better odds. Either Vegas knows something, or New Mexico State is an upset opportunity of the decade. I looked up their RPI expecting in the 80s or 90s. It's 51.

18. When eliminating a No. 2 seed, give strong consideration to the No. 10 seed. More No. 10 seeds have advanced recently than No. 7 seeds.

19. Pick one or two No. 10 seeds in Round 1. If you use 24 chalk teams, pick two. Look for pesky underachievers or small school wonders. (This year it's mostly pesky underachievers.)

20. Pick two No. 12 seeds in Round 1. Picking the wrong two could do some damage to your bracket, but at the same time this should be fun. Expect one mid-major to go down and one major conference team to do the same.

21. Pick only one No. 11 seed in Round 1. Unless the team is George Mason, No. 11 seeds do little damage.

22. In 8-9 games, pick two of each. Since they will be eliminated in Round 2, spend a small amount of time on these.

23. Unless the year is 2006, Verne Lundquist rarely calls upsets in the first two rounds. Since 2003, he only called a double digit seed upset one year. Verne is in Providence, so San Diego State and St. Mary's may seem tempting, but that long plane ride and memories of Bowling For Dollars will haunt.

24. In the last four years, Dick Enberg in the first two rounds has announced six teams that have made the Final 4. Kentucky and Baylor must like the sound of that.

25. Since 2002, Ian Eagle in the first two rounds has announced one team (a No. 1 seed) that has made the Final 4. Ohio State and Pittsburgh can't like the sound of that.

26. If you pick a No. 13 seed to beat a No. 4, pick a game on Friday. The last five No. 13 seeds that have won have been on a Friday. Wofford, Siena, and Houston must like the sound of that.

27. If you are crazy enough to pick a 14 seed in Round 1, also make it a Friday. Since Oakland is the only No. 14 seed playing Friday, and you believe the Ian Eagle curse is true, that might be your upset special.

28. Jim Nantz has called a team that has made the Final 4 in the first two rounds in three of the last seven years. All of those were in North Carolina, though. When he has left North Carolina, no luck. He's in Jacksonville this year. So is Duke.

29. Gus Johnson has been pretty solid (five out of seven years) in calling Final 4 teams. Syracuse and West Virginia have to like that the screams are in Buffalo.

30. Tim Brando and Ian Eagle are pretty solid when it comes to first round upsets. Look to Spokane or Milwaukee for a double digit seed first round win.

31. An addition to No. 12, if you have Clemson going to the sweet 16 in your initial bracket, throw it away. Nothing says big game and losing double digit points leads like Clemson.

32. If you are crazy and pick a higher seed to make the Final 4, look for a home court advantage. Cornell, BYU, and Texas A&M all can have very close drives to a regional if they can make it there.

33. Women's note: Currently you can get 6-1 odds on the rest of the field winning the women's NCAA title. The women's bracket seems a little boring this year.

34. Finally, if you had five too many drinks on St. Pat's Day and have lost your mind and think this is the year a No. 1 seed loses in the first round, pick Kentucky to lose. East Tennessee State is a scary out. They had Pittsburgh on the ropes for awhile last year as a No. 16 seed. Before that they had the crazy good lefty Tim Smith who almost propelled them to wins as a No. 15 seed and a No. 13 seed. In 1992, East Tennessee State won as a No. 14 seed. I know a win might not happen, but the Bucs can keep it within 20.



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