NCAA Tournament 2011: 5 Mistakes People Make Filling Out a Bracket

Thad Novak@@ThadNovakCorrespondent IMarch 16, 2011

NCAA Tournament 2011: 5 Mistakes People Make Filling Out a Bracket

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 10:  Joshua Smith #34 and Reeves Nelson #22 of the UCLA Bruins sit on the bench in the second half while taking on the Oregon Ducks in the quarterfinals of the 2011 Pacific Life Pac-10 Men's Basketball Tournament at Staples Center
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    With just one more day to fill out brackets for the 2011 NCAA tournament, basketball fans around the country are looking for an edge.

    There is, of course, no sure recipe for success in picking the tournament winners, but being aware of some common pitfalls can't hurt. 

    Here are five ways a bracket can go wrong, with some possible examples from this year's field of where those mistakes might lead a fan astray.

5. Power-Conference Bias

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    OKLAHOMA CITY - MARCH 20:  Adam Koch #34 the Northern Iowa Panthers dunks against the Kansas Jayhawks during the second round of the 2010 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Ford Center on March 20, 2010 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  (Photo by Ronald Marti
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Seeding aside, most fans are always going to have a certain amount of bias in favor of the major-conference teams, if only because of their advantage in national TV exposure.

    No matter how many Gonzagas and George Masons make great runs in March, it can be tough to pick against the team that survived a season of being battered around by Michigan and Ohio State.

    Last year’s second round, which saw Northern Iowa stun top-seeded Kansas, provides a classic example.

    Had the Panthers been a similarly-talented squad out of the Pac-10 (for example), their win wouldn’t have felt nearly as shocking, and they’d probably have appeared on a few more brackets as a result.

This Year's Example: Marquette

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    NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 10:  Terrence Jennings #23 of the Louisville Cardinals drives to the basket against Jimmy Butler #33 and Jae Crowder #32 of the Marquette Golden Eagles during the quarterfinals of the 2011 Big East Men's Basketball Tournament presente
    Mike Lawrie/Getty Images

    Naturally, the Big East and its record 11 teams in the field provide the most opportunities for this issue to surface.

    Big East squad Marquette, an 11th seed against perennially overlooked sixth seed Xavier, could be one team that gets over-picked on the strength of its conference foes.

    To be fair, Marquette has the defensive toughness to be a plausible pick over the Musketeers on its own merits. Still, fans who assume that the Golden Eagles are the team to beat purely because they survived the Big East crucible may not like the results.

4. Counting Too Much on One Player

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    OAKLAND, CA - MARCH 23:  Adam Morrison #3 of the Gonzaga Bulldogs hangs his head after losing to the UCLA Bruins during the third round game of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament at the Arena in Oakland on March 23, 2006 in Oakland, Californi
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    Guaranteed offense is always a good thing in a one-and-done tournament, as UConn’s Kemba Walker just demonstrated.

    However, the allure of the unstoppable go-to guy can sometimes lead to over-picking a team that has deficiencies at other spots on the floor.

    Adam Morrison provides one of the best examples in recent memory, as the high-scoring star fell to a hard-fought comeback by UCLA after reaching no farther than the Sweet 16.

    While no Bruin had matched Morrison’s 24 points, the Zags were the team going home.

This Year's Example: BYU

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    LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 12:  Jimmer Fredette #32 of the Brigham Young University Cougars shoots a jump shot during the championship game of the Conoco Mountain West Conference Basketball tournament against the San Diego State Aztecs at the Thomas & Mack Cen
    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    This year’s field is rife with teams that will ride an individual star as far as he can carry them. Among the most scrutinized (and probably most picked) will be Jimmer Fredette and BYU.

    That Fredette is a first-class scorer is undeniable, but he’s facing a tough road in the Southeast regional.

    Physical defensive teams like Michigan State and Pitt can body up on Fredette and wear him down over the course of a long game.

    With his supporting cast thinned by the suspension to Brandon Davies, Fredette’s squad could even fall as early as a potential third-round meeting with an athletic St. John’s team.

3. Picking the Name and Not the Team

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    GREENSBORO, NC - MARCH 12:  Head coach Roy Williams of the North Carolina Tar Heels reacts during overtime against the Clemson Tigers in the semifinals of the 2011 ACC men's basketball tournament at the Greensboro Coliseum on March 12, 2011 in Greensboro,
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    There is, certainly, a measure of logic to counting on a school that’s played well in years past to be a school that will do so again.

    Many of the coaches at high-profile programs have established records of winning in spite of rapid personnel turnover.

    At the same time, not all Roy Williams teams are created equal, as Tar Heel fans learned to their dismay last season in missing the tournament entirely.

    Sometimes, expecting a team to win (or lose) based on past performance can be a risky proposition.

This Year's Example: UCLA

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    LAWRENCE, KS - DECEMBER 02:  Head coach Ben Howland of the UCLA Bruins reacts after a foul during the game against the Kansas Jayhawks on December 2, 2010 at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kansas.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    One of the biggest down-year teams in the 2011 tournament is UCLA.

    Ben Howland’s success in Westwood has been well documented, but this isn’t the talent-laden squad that Howland has brought in years past.

    Tyler Honeycutt’s individual brilliance notwithstanding, UCLA is a poor free-throw shooting team that lacks the backcourt leadership that has carried so many Bruins teams to tournament success.

    This year’s edition will be doing well if they survive their second-round meeting with Michigan State.

2. What Have You Done for Me Lately?

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    PROVIDENCE, RI - MARCH 18:  Reggie Keely #30 of the Ohio Bobcats takes a shot as Greg Monroe #10 of the Georgetown Hoyas defends during the first round of the 2010 NCAA men's basketball tournament on March 18, 2010 at the Dunkin Donuts Arena in Providence
    Elsa/Getty Images

    The hype and TV coverage surrounding the conference tournaments makes every game played in the week leading up to Selection Sunday seem magnified.

    While getting hot at the right time can certainly help a team, it’s easy to overvalue a team that’s just played a great game or two.

    Conversely, a bad loss in the conference tournament can make a strong team look vulnerable, even though it’s just one game.

    Last year’s Big East tournament shows just how quickly a hot team can cool off in March.

    While tournament champ West Virginia did indeed go on an impressive Final Four run, the runner-up (after three decisive victories) was Georgetown, which proceeded to get whipped by 14th-seeded Ohio in its first NCAA game.

This Year's Example: Purdue

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    INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 11:  E'Twaun Moore #33 of the Purdue Boilermakers attempts a shot in the first half against Mike Kebler #20 and Draymond Green #23 of the Michigan State Spartans during the quarterfinals of the 2011 Big Ten Men's Basketball Tourna
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Purdue’s early exit from the Big Ten tournament could prove to be an example of a team that gets undervalued after a weak finish.

    The Boilermakers enter the NCAAs having gotten mauled by Michigan State in their conference tournament opener, but be careful about letting one wretched performance overshadow a brilliant season.

    Purdue is a veteran team with a physical defense and scoring options inside (JaJuan Johnson) and outside (E’Twaun Moore).

    Fans who saw the Michigan State score and expect the Boilermakers to roll over and die against Georgetown or even Notre Dame in the middle rounds could be in for a nasty surprise.

1. Too Much Chalk

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    SALT LAKE CITY - MARCH 25:  Ronald Nored #5 of the Butler Bulldogs in action against the Syracuse Orange during the west regional semifinal of the 2010 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the Energy Solutions Arena on March 25, 2010 in Salt Lake City, Uta
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    Obviously, the favorites are favorites for a reason, and a lot of them are going to win. That said, leaving too many highly ranked teams in the bracket for too long is usually a recipe for disaster.

    After all, only once in 30 years have all four No. 1 seeds made the Final Four.

    Last year’s tourney, when two top seeds were gone by the Elite Eight, makes for a fairly typical example. Relying too heavily on the seemingly obvious teams will rarely prove the right decision.

This Year's Example: Pitt

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    NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 10: Jeremy Lamb #3 of the Connecticut Huskies shoots over Dante Taylor #11 of the Pittsburgh Panthers during the quarterfinals of the 2011 Big East Men's Basketball Tournament presented by American Eagle Outfitters  at Madison Square
    Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    This year the danger of over-relying on the top seeds is especially apparent, as there isn’t an overwhelming force coming in with a 31-1 record.

    All the No. 1 seeds have their vulnerabilities, and the wrong matchup could sink any of them.

    Pitt, despite its superlative defense, seems the most vulnerable of the four simply because it can’t lean on a dominant offensive player.

    A mid-round matchup with another defense-oriented club (say, No. 4 seed Wisconsin) could sink the Panthers if they don’t have a hot hand to bail them out.