The key to dominating your March Madness bracket pool is not picking the cutest mascots or flipping a coin, although it does involve a good bit of luck.
The best way to become an NCAA tournament bracket champion is by doing your research. Dive deep into the endless amount of statistics out there and determine which team is more likely to advance in each matchup. Whether one team is hitting a higher percentage of three-pointers or the other is rebounding at a poor rate, there are plenty of telling numbers to help make the picking process easier.
In the first couple rounds, going with the lower-seeded team is always smart, even though there will be exciting—and sometimes annoying—upsets. But as you make your way into the Sweet 16 and eventually to the Elite Eight and Final Four, your best chance is to go with your gut.
Here are a few tips that will allow you to impress everyone in your pool.
Pick at Least One No. 12 Seed to Win in the Round of 64
As The Las Vegas Sun's Taylor Bern notes, 38 No. 12 seeds have won their opening game since the tournament expanded to a 64-team field in 1985. This means 34 percent of the time, the No. 5 seed loses in an upset.
With four 12-5 matchups set for Thursday and Friday, simple math suggests that at least one upset will occur. It is possible that multiple surprises will happen in the coming days, and it is certainly not unwise to send two No. 12 seeds into the Round of 32.
But keep your composure and do not get crazy with the upset picks. Remember, the seeds are there for a reason.
Pick a High Seed to Win the Tournament
Again, the seeds are there for a reason. Starting in 1985, only three teams have ever won the tournament after being seeded fourth or lower.
Teams are certainly capable of making a run to the Final Four after being given an low seed, as the 2011 tournament proved with No. 8 Butler and No. 11 VCU facing off in one of the national semifinal.
In fact, that Final Four only featured one team seeded third or higher; that was UConn, and it won the title. This was an affirmation of a longstanding trend that is unlikely to break this year, and you should limit your search for a national champion to just nine teams.
Do Not Pick the Same Winner as Others in Your Pool
Here's where it gets a little tricky. Don't pick a low seed, but you also have to be a little creative with who you choose to win it all.
If you and everyone else in your pool picks Louisville to win the tournament, then you cannot gain any points on the competition. The best way to get ahead is to predict a winner that most of your friends or coworkers are avoiding.
But to win, you will also have to be right. So, choose wisely, and good luck.
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