It’s that time of year again.
Offices everywhere are filled with pools for pride, money, and even time off. Of course there is some kind of contest given by a high profile billionaire where the stakes are high and the reward is great for the person who has the perfect bracket (when actually getting a perfect bracket is like one in a million). Every year I confidently submit, and every year I fall short of winning that billion dollar prize. However, all those submission have not gone in vain. Filling out my NCAA Men’s Tournament bracket has now become an art form. The lessons I have learned from previous brackets now gain me free food, bragging rights, and even some cold hard cash . Now I can’t guarantee a perfect bracket, but I can share the 5 key elements I have learned for making a bracket competitive until the very end:
1. BE SMART ABOUT PICKING THE UPSETS
Never has a #16 seed beat a #1 seed. It hasn’t happened for a reason so don’t pick the #16 on a “what if”. I have learned however to try a #15 seed over a #2 seed instead. In the 2013 season, 15th seeded Florida Gulf Coast made it all the way to the Sweet 16, so it isn’t impossible, although it may be unlikely. Don’t rely on overall record either. Syracuse is a good example of a team that did well to start the 2013-14 season and post an overall 27-5 record, but ended the season inconsistent and suffered some key losses. That makes it difficult to see Syracuse go on a long tournament run.
2. ALWAYS PICK A 12 SEED TO DEFEAT A 5 SEED
16 of the last 17 years, a #12 seed has defeated a #5 seed in the round of 64. In fact in the 2013 season, three of the four 12 seeds advanced. It’s a paradox that has worked for me every year. I’m not suggesting that every 12th seed is chosen, but to be on the safe side, pick at least two.
3. LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION
I found it is just as important to pay attention to where the round is being played, as it is to the teams playing in them. Schools that are located near the site of the game have a stronger fan base in attendance, which raises their chances of winning. What better way to win a game on neutral turf than to make it home game!
4. DON’T GO OVERBOARD ON #1 SEEDS
Only once (2008) has all four number one seeds actually made it to the Final Four, so don’t get overly excited with the guys on top. Make sure the Final Four picks include a #4 seed or #2 seed as usually, one of those are present in the end. In fact, I realized a bracket can be salvaged if the Final Four is correct. So even if the round of 64 and 32 was completely bombed, it is possible to save the bracket by making sure the teams picked for the Final Four are still in play.
5. LEAVE THE HEART OUT OF IT
As much as I love Michigan State University, I can’t pick them to win every year, as every year they may not be true contenders. The truth is, sometimes the best teams have to face a team that is well liked, but well liked does not mean better. So no cheering for the Alma Mater just because. As the old saying goes “Use your head, not your heart.”