It’s that time of year again. The two most unproductive days of the year in America when many people across the country call off during the first round of the NCAA tournament. Whether you are playing for a billion dollars, a million dollars or just for bragging rights, below are five tips to help you out-bracket your competitors.
1. Value teams with upper-class experience
In the era of one-and-done players, schools with a dearth of upperclassmen tend to do better. This is why mid majors like Butler and VCU have been able to make it to the Final Four or even the title game in recent years. So when you are filling out your bracket, check out the number of junior and senior starters on the teams.
2. Be wary of teams that live and die by the three
Generally teams that heavily rely on the three point basket don’t do as well as other teams because it’s very hard to stay hot 4-6 games in a row. The 2013 NCAA tournament was an exception when the sharpshooting Michigan Wolverines rode hot shooting by their guards all the way to the title game, falling just short of winning it all.
3. Focus on regular season or conference champions
Teams that win either the regular season title or the conference title are almost always the ones to win the whole tournament. In fact, according to sbnation.com, the last team to win the NCAA title without winning either the regular season title or the conference tournament title was the Arizona Wildcats of the then Pac-10 back in 1997. And even then, the Pac-10 did not have a conference tournament at that time.
4. Check teams’ injury reports
Before you make your picks, check each team’s website to make sure there is no recent and significant injury that could keep a key player out. If there is, check how the player will be out. The NCAA Selection Committee takes injuries into account when determining the seeding, as it famously did in 2000 when it put the number 1 ranked Cincinnati Bearcats as a two seed following Kenyon Martin’s injury in the conference tournament. You should do the same when picking your winners.
5. If you have a feeling, go with it
Plainly speaking, you can do all the research available, but at the end of the day a certain amount of luck is needed. You have a bunch of 18-22 year olds playing in high pressure games. On any given day, one team can be uncharacteristically hot and the other, uncharacteristically cold.
Sometimes stats will not help you pick the right winner. Sometimes it’s just a feeling you get that for some unexplainable reason, a certain team is going to win or lose, like I got unfortunately when the Ohio State Buckeyes played the Tennessee Volunteers in the Sweet 16 in 2009. When this happens, don’t talk yourself into picking otherwise. For the sake of your bracket, just go with your feeling.