How to win your March Madness pool

Mar 19th, 2014 | By | Category: Sports

By Evan Giddings

March Madness is upon us.

The NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament spans from March 18 until April 7; captivating hoop fans across the nation in a way that no other athletic event can.

From avid sports lovers to uninformed bandwagon fans, everyone who participates in the tournament does so by creating their own bracket.

This idea of bracketology is what draws many fans to watch and pay close attention as they follow their picks throughout the one-game elimination tournament of champions.

The problem that most people have is how to pick their bracket. Don’t fret; I am here to guide you along your path to NCAA bracketology fame.

Now, I cannot guarantee perfection – nobody has ever picked a perfect bracket. In fact, according to the Book of Odds, the chances that someone remains perfect through just two rounds are one in 13,460,000.

Despite having the odds against you, there are ways to maximize the amount of matchups you select correctly. I have three ways to do so.

1. You shouldn’t try to be that rebel who tries to start his or her own trend. Instead, continue to trust the ones that work.

For the Round of 64, which is where the majority of the upsets occur and what eventually shapes the tournament, follow the trends of past years.

In the last 13 years, a no. 12 seed has beaten a no. 5, and a no. 4 seed has gone down to a no. 13 seed in six straight years. Don’t be afraid to pull the trigger here.

Also, in the past two years, a no. 15 seed has won in the first round, with Norfolk State University upsetting Missouri State University, and Lehigh University defeating the mighty Duke in 2012, while just last year Florida Gulf Coast University knocked off Georgetown University.

2. When looking around for teams to pick, especially in those games where you just can’t decide (and in some cases just don’t care), “ride the hot hand.”

This means that there will be teams coming into the tournament with momentum and others with little steam that can help separate your bracket from others.

Examples of this include last years. no. 12 Mississippi State Univerity team as they won the SEC Tournament and went on to upset no. 5 University of Wisconsin who many analysts had as a sure lock in the Sweet 16.

Now this strategy isn’t without its flaws, but throughout the years there have been plenty of examples, such as the 2011 National Champions Connecticut that suggest that teams coming into the tournament on a hot streak are more likely to sustain it than those who aren’t.

3. If all else fails, work backwards.

What I mean by this is that everyone has their favorites. Use those to construct your bracket and then build around it. If you are a big fan of a specific squad and see them going far, then pencil them in and drop whoever is in their path.
This also relieves pressure of over-thinking those early matchups and second-guessing yourself. There are some games worth stressing over, but they shouldn’t include your top-seeded favorites you picture in the Final Four (or beyond).

Now, using these guidelines cannot secure a flawless bracket as the unpredictability is what makes March Madness so great, but I do foresee a more consistent way to predict matchups as well as a greater understanding of this so-called “bracketology”.

So, good luck with your brackets. Whether your bracket busts on the first day or the last, just remember, no one’s perfect.

egidding@willamette.edu

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