NCAA Tournament Bracket Guide: 32 March Madness Bracket Tips

Jeff PencekCorrespondent IIMarch 12, 2012

NEW ORLEANS, LA - MARCH 11:  Festus Ezeli #3 of the Vanderbilt Commodores dunks infront of Anthony Davis #23 of the Kentucky Wildcats during the championship game of the 2012 SEC Men's Basketball Tournament at New Orleans Arena on March 11, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

This is the third edition of the guide to a better bracket, and I will point out some great notes I made, as well as kick myself for a few duds.

In 2010, I said eliminate Duke by the Sweet 16, and last year I wrote how no double-seeded team wins in Denver. Oops. I will state my credentials by saying that I had South Florida, BYU and Iona in the play-in games, so I do know something.

This list is some information and tidbits you might not get anywhere else, which will help you win bets or bracket pools (most likely in the women's tournament or CIT—that's where I dominate).

1. Fill out two brackets

One, do the bracket backwards, with the national champion picked first. Then, do the bracket normally. This will help you avoid situations where you look at your bracket and can't believe it. How did Southern Miss make the Elite Eight? You'll know if you start with the Final Four.

2. Winning the conference tournament is important

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Only four times in the last 14 years has the National Champion not won their conference tournament. They would be Maryland in 2002, Syracuse in 2003 and North Carolina in 2005 and 2009.

If you are Syracuse or North Carolina fans, maybe there is nothing to worry about. Otherwise, that fact may be a bit scarier for a Kentucky, Kansas or Duke.

3. Think twice about Vanderbilt

For those looking at Vanderbilt as a sleeper Elite Eight or Final Four team, let me review their last three appearances. In 2008, as a No. 4 seed, they lost to No. 13 Siena. In 2010, as a No. 4 seed, they lost to No. 13 Murray State. In 2011, as a No. 5 seed, they lost to No. 12 Richmond.

As you can see, you'll want to proceed with caution.

4. Take a look at the South Region

Three of the Final Four teams from last year are in the same side of the South Region. Butler didn't make the tournament. We are guaranteed to have a maximum of only one Final Four team in the Elite 8.

5. Watch out for UNC Asheville?

If you ever dreamed of a No. 16 seed winning, this may be the closest you get in a long time. LIU-Brooklyn's RPI is 80. UNC Asheville won a tournament game last year (yeah, they lost by 23 in the first round, but they have good experience), and then a treat in the play-in game.

If Western Kentucky can win, they play Kentucky. I'm not saying they beat Kentucky, but if it were ever to happen, it would be a pretty good program, having a down year.

Advance the No. 1 seeds to the round of 32.

6. Advance all one-seeds to the Sweet 16

If you eliminate a No. 1 seed early, it is more likely to be because of a mid-major beating them. Think Butler, UAB, Northern Iowa. The last major conference team was Alabama in 2004.

It's happened only four times since 2004, so it is rare, and it's probably best if you advance all of the No. 1 seeds to the Sweet 16.

7. Check which games Spero Dedes is calling

The Craig Bolerjack Upset Machine did transfer to Spero Dedes. Last year, I wrote Georgetown, Purdue, Texas A&M and Notre Dame should be worried. None of them made the Sweet 16.

If you're looking for an upset, find out which games Spero is calling.

8. Have roughly 25 higher-seeded teams advancing to the round of 32

Despite a tournament where no one-seeds made the Final Four last year, 25 of the 32 better seeds advanced to the round of 32.

Your bracket should have around 23-25 teams like that advancing.

9.Then cut that number to 10 entering the Sweet 16

From there, the standard is about 9-10 better seeds making the Sweet 16. Even with the hectic bracket last year, 10 of the top seeds made the Sweet 16.

If you have 6-7, the bracket is too aggressive and prone for mistakes. If you have 14 or 15, you are a bore and everyone hates you.

10. Gauge the tournament by the first session.

This won't help with brackets, but will help with other action.

In 2010, the first session was Old Dominion's one-point win over No. 6 Notre Dame, BYU's double OT victory, Villanova's OT win over No. 15 Robert Morris and Murray State's win over No. 4 Vanderbilt. In 2011, the first game was the jet lag bowl, with Clemson having zero chance against West Virginia.

In the next four games, Butler won in a buzzer beater, Morehead St. beat No. 4 Louisville, Temple won with a buzzer beater and Kentucky won with a last second shot. In 2009, the favorites all won the early session.

Point is, chaos begins early in the NCAA tournament. Colorado State, Davidson and Montana have to like the sound of that.

11. Advance all of the No. 2 seeds to the round of 32.

From there, eliminate one going to the Sweet 16. Ideally, this would be a No. 10 seed. Personally, I would lean towards a school that starts with an X, but there are some interesting options otherwise.

It is best to eliminate the team you have losing in the Sweet 16 a round early.

12. Only five No. 14-16 seeds have won tournament games in the last 13 years.

With UConn being a No. 3 seed last year, I can understand picking one of the three-seeds to lose in the round of 64 is scary. However, this year is a bit different.

With the First Four, bracket creep is in play, meaning two No. 14 seeds would have been thirteen-seeds in previous tournaments. Also, do any of the No. 3 seeds feel exceptional?

If you think Murray State or San Diego State is going to the Sweet 16, pull the trigger. Belmont, St. Bonaventure, South Dakota State and BYU or Iona is the best collection of No. 14 seeds the tournament has had in a long time.

13. At least one Big East team will lose in the first round

The Big East has had a team lose to a double digit seed in the round of 64 each year since 2004. It happened three times last year. With six chances for it to happen again this year, it's going to happen.

14.Take a look at the Big East's history

Copy and paste time. Last year, the Big East had 11 teams, breaking the record they set in 2006, 2008 and 2010. This year, they have nine teams, more than in those three years. Rarely is it mentioned how those teams did in the tournament. The breakdown is below:

Twelve of the 35 teams lost in the round of 64, including four Big East teams the last two years (last year a No. 4, two No. 6's and a No. 9)

Twelve of the 35 teams lost in the round of 32. Last year, five Big East teams lost in the round of 32. Six of the 35 teams lost in the Sweet 16.

Three of the 35 teams lost in the Elite Eight (zero last year). West Virginia lost in the Final Four in 2010, and UConn won the title in 2011.

15. Let's look some more...

In those four years, the Big East had:

Four No. 1 seeds

Four No. 2 seeds

Five No. 3 seeds

Two Final Four teams

16. Just two of those teams advanced to the Sweet 16

Additional note about the Big East last year. Only two teams, Marquette and UConn, advanced to the Sweet 16. Mostly because in the Round of 32, they played a Big East team.

17. And just to really make my point...

Now for even more fun, since I have to point out how failed the 10 at-large Big East teams were. They lost to two Big East teams, two Colonial teams, a WCC team, a SEC team, two ACC teams, an OVC team and a Horizon team.

Last year, the Big East was better.

18.The Big East gets a lot of love, however...

For all of the love the Big East gets, the committee decided to honor the tournament champions by sending them to Portland to play in a 10:40 AM local time game.

Someone must have disliked the title game Saturday.

19. Have at least one double digit seed in the Sweet 16

Last year, there were four of them, and three in 2010. Probably best to stick with 10-12 seeds, since only four 13-15 seeds have advanced to the Sweet 16 in the last 15 years.

20. Pick one No. 13 seed to beat a No. 4 seed in the round of 64

It has happened six of the last seven years. It is a risky pick, since those who picked Princeton last year got close, but also lost a Final Four team. Davidson beat Kansas, Ohio beat Georgetown two years ago and New Mexico State and Montana have shorter trips to their games.

Just pick the team you would pick to lose in the next round anyway.

21. Pick two No. 12 seeds to beat No. 5 seeds in the round of 64

It happened only once the last two years, but happened multiple times in 2006, 2008 and 2009 (2007 was an exception). Non-BCS beating other non-BCS is usually a solid formula (Cornell, Western Kentucky, Montana).

22. Pick at least one No. 11 seed to beat a six

It's happened 11 out of the last 12 years. With the seedings this year, it will be a test of whether you love the Mountain West or not.

23. Analyze the games and RPI and see if any game sticks out as really strange

When Michigan State was favored over New Mexico State by 13 in 2010, I called it the upset opportunity of the decade. Michigan State wound up winning by two.

Look at point spreads and see what Vegas thinks and if anything can help you bracket-wise, or just in friendly discussions.

24. Prepare for the end of days

If Verne Lundquist can do the truTV promo with a straight face while saying Lizard Lick Towing or Full Throttle Saloon, prepare for the end of days.

25. The West Region will bring chaos

Last year, the West Region was chalk in the Round of 64. That probably means chaos this year.

26. Random weirdness might add a little flair to neutral site games

Michigan State has to play two rounds in Ohio State's building. UNLV is playing at New Mexico. West Virginia is in rival Pittsburgh (until they both part ways, so sad). And speaking of that, Syracuse is in Pittsburg,h as they will get to tour fellow ACC country in their spare time.

27. Tournament committee guidelines

Deadspin had an article up about the tournament committee guidelines. Let me borrow a quote from their synopsis:

The committee must pay attention to recent years' brackets to avoid sending teams far across the country multiple years in a row. For example, Wisconsin opened in Tucson last year, so the committee must make sure they play close to home this time around. Wisconsin is in Albuquerque playing at 12:10 Thursday afternoon. Louisville was in Denver last year.

28. Colorado's seeding is a bit high

Maybe the committee thought Colorado was still a Big 12 team. With California in the play-in game and Washington rocking the NIT, Colorado as an No. 11 seed feels real high.

29. An awkward matchup looms

The Florida State (currently) Seminoles versus the Saint Bonaventure (formerly) Indians will win the tournament honor for tomahawk chops and Native American cringing during this year's tournament.

30. Gus Johnson's always good for a laugh

Gus Johnson will not be announcing. It has nothing to do with the bracket, just going to miss the ha ha's.

31. Kansas should be on upset alert

The conference that brought back-to-back NCAA championship game participant Butler has a No. 15 seed this year. I'm not saying Kansas will lose to Detroit, but Kansas has this really strange mid-major bug they can't shake.

They lost to Bucknell, Bradley, and when they won the title they almost lost to Davidson and Memphis, Northern Iowa and VCU. Four of the last six times Kansas has been eliminated has been to mid-majors below an eight-seed.

32. Regional proximity is weird because of the regional locations

If Harvard wins their first two games, they have home games in Boston. No team is really close to Atlanta. Kansas has an edge if they get to St. Louis (although Purdue is closer). The winner of New Mexico and Long Beach State will be big since they will have the biggest edge in the West.

None of this may matter, just fun for the fans to prepare for.

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