NCAA March Madness: Tips for filling out a great bracket


Mar 16, 2013; New York, NY, USA; Louisville Cardinals head coach Rick Pitino and teammates celebrate after the championship game against the Syracuse Orange at the Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden. Louisville won 78-61. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

March Madness kicks off tonight with the play in games, and the round of 64 starts Thursday afternoon. Most online brackets are due right before tip off of the first game, so hopefully you read this article in time.

Round of 64 tips

In the first round, do not pick any #1 or #2 seeds to lose. There has never been a #16 seed win, and #15 seeds have only won six times in 112 attempts. Do not hesitate on picking a #13 or #14 seed upset though, as at least one top four seed has lost 24 of the last 28 years.

A realistic pick there would be New Mexico State over Saint Louis. Kansas State, Syracuse, and Michigan make up the other #4 seeds, and I can see Syracuse and Michigan going deep into the tournament.

Picking a #12 seed upset isn’t a bad idea, either. A #12 seed has upset a #5 seed at least once in 22 of the last 24 tournaments.

Picking Oregon over Oklahoma State isn’t a bad idea if you are going to follow through with picking a #12 seed upset. A lot of people say Oregon got cheated out of a better seed, and that they may have been deserving of a #9 or #10.

March 15, 2013; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Oregon Ducks head coach Dana Altman (front, left) instructs his team in a huddle against the Utah Utes during the second half in the semifinal round of the Pac 12 tournament at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Oregon defeated Utah 64-45. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Round of 32 tips

An obvious tip here would be to push all four number one seeds in the bracket into the Sweet Sixteen. 88% of one seeds all time have made it to the Sweet Sixteen.

The only realistic scenario in which a one seed might lose before the Sweet Sixteen this tournament is if Gonzaga faces Pittsburgh. I’d still take Gonzaga there, but if Pittsburgh shows up to play, Gonzaga may be in trouble.

If you picked any #12 or #10 seed upsets in the first round, advance the team to the Sweet Sixteen. Nearly half the time a #12 seed or #10 seed plays in the second round, they advance to the Sweet Sixteen. If Oregon is able to beat Oklahoma State, they will most likely face off against Saint Louis in the round of 32, which isn’t a bad pick.

You want to pick either a #1, #2, or #3 seed being upset in this round. Only once in tournament history have the twelve teams that make up the #1, #2, and #3 seeds made the Sweet Sixteen.

Sweet Sixteen tips

Advance exactly three #1 seeds in this round. 72% of #1 seeds have made the Elite Eight, and one #1 seed is usually left out. If Gonzaga squares off with Wisconsin/Kansas State in the Sweet Sixteen, this might not be a bad choice. Michigan could possibly run into Kansas in the Sweet Sixteen, and I can see an upset brewing there, if Michigan is able to play the way they did at times this season.

Unfortunately, this is when any team’s cinderella story usually ends. Any #12 or #13 team you picked to win will fall in the Sweet Sixteen. Only one team lower than a #11 seed has ever advanced to the Elite Eight.

Mar 16, 2013; New York, NY, USA; Louisville Cardinals guard Peyton Siva (3) and guard Luke Hancock (11) and forward Montrezl Harrell (24) celebrate in front of Syracuse Orange forward C.J. Fair (5) towards the end of the second half of the championship game of the Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden. Louisville won 78-61. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Elite Eight tips

Advance only one or two #1 seeds to the Final Four. The Final Four has had either one or two #1 seeds in it 22 of the last 28 tournaments, so you definitely want to roll with Louisville here. Indiana could be the other #1 seed in the Final Four, but I have trouble seeing Gonzaga and Kansas make it through without being upset.

Do not pick any team worse than a #8 seed to the Final Four. Only 3 of the 114 Final Four teams have been seeded worse than eight.

Final Four tips

Do not advance two numbers one seeds to the championship game. Since tournament seeding began, only six times have two #1 seeds made it to the finals.

Do not pick any team seeded worse than six to make it to the championship. Only one team (Butler in 2011) has made it to the championship game being seeded worse than six.

Championship Game tips

Not much to say here, but don’t pick any team seeded worse than four to win the dance. Every championship winner in the last 24 tournaments has been ranked either #1, #2, #3, or #4.

Off-the-wall tip

Don’t base your brackets off this, but I read on Twitter (@JCotton2123) that a team wearing some shade of the color blue has won the championship every year since 2003. Connecticut (x2), Florida (x2), North Carolina (x2), Duke, Kentucky, and Kansas are the last nine championship teams, and you can tell that all of those teams worse some shade of the color blue.

All these tips are based off of straight statistic, number-crunching, studies. It depends what type of person you are. If you like to go off of the numbers, this article should have helped you. If you find all of this a big coincidence, this might not have been your type of bracketology.

Good luck!