That’s nothing like March Madness. 68 teams have at least a theoretic shot at winning it all. Win, and you’re still in.
And the best part of March Madness is getting to pick your brackets. After a whole year of casually watching basketball, all of a sudden you get to be an expert with a chance to win some money from your co-workers to boot. No longer are you limited to rooting for your alma mater or against your hated rival. You have 66 other teams you can root for (or against)
And just like the annual rules for picking the Bowl Games here are some tips to stay in contention longer in your pools
This year it’s going to be a hard rule to follow. In January, the Spartans were playing for a number one seed. By early March the were headed straight to the bubble. A couple of key wins over Purdue and Wisconsin got us right in between – a 7 seed. It’s better than last year when we were an 11 seed and lost a play in game to UCLA. And the same as last year, the offense can go AWOL for maddeningly long stretches while at the same time, an eruption of turnovers occur.
But the rule is the rule. I’ll just make sure I have several backup brackets, just in case.
2. Pick your Final Four first and work backwards. Starting in the opening rounds and working forward inevitably leads to leaving you with some unintentional Cinderella heading to the Indianapolis.
3. Advance all the No. 1 seeds in the first round. Yeah, in 2018, UVA, not only a #1 seed but the overall #1 seeded team overall went down in the first round. Can it happen again? Nah, the top seeds are 143-1 since seeding started. I’ll keep on picking them.
4. 2 seeds are a bit harder to predict. In 2021the number 2 seeds went 3-1 in the first round and 2-1 in the next round. In 202 they all won the first game and the second round but then went 2-2 in the third round. In 2018, the 2 seeds also won all their first game and then went 3-1 in the second round. Prior to that in 2015 all four number 2’s advanced and then went 2-2 in the second round. The same thing happened in 2014. No definitive trend there, what the heck, take a 2 seed to lose this round. And definitely feel free to drop one by the second round.
6. It’s been trendy to take the 12 seeds to upset the 5 seeds. In 2013 and 2014, 3 of the 4 number 12 seeds won. In 2015 that trend took a pause as all four 5 seeds advanced. In 2016, the trend picked up again as two 5 seeds fell in the first round (Purdon’t and Baylor). In 2018 one #12 seed won (Middle Tenn State against a team we all know and love). In 2019 the #12 seeds went 3-1 against the 5s. Wow! Last year, Oregon State upset Tennessee. So have a little fun - take a 12 (or two) to beat a 5!
While you are at it, keep in mind no #5 seed has won it all.
Same thing happened in 2018. In 2019, they won one game and then got launched by a #5 seed. Last year, they got bounced in the second round by 6 seed USC. Go ahead and bounce the Rock Shock ChokeHawks well before the Final Four.
8. Drop some No. 1s or a No. 2s in the round of 32. In the last nine Tournaments, twenty of the sixty four No. 1 or No. 2 seeds lost before the Sweet 16. Last year it was 1 seen Illinois, and 2 seeds Iowa and Ohio State failing to get past the first weekend. The teams in seeds 7-10 are talented but streaky, capable of knocking off a top seed on a two day turnaround.
9. Just don’t fall too in love with upsets. Everyone remembers the Mercers, Butlers, VCUs, George Mason and Florida Gulf Coasts of the tourney. But it’s because they are so rare that they are so memorable. The truth is that it’s highly unlikely that a low seed will make the Final Four. Of the last 92 Final Four teams, 74 (80%) were top-four seeds. There’s probably room for one non top four seed. Last tournament it was 11 seed UCLA (hey, that was our spot – damn Bruins)
11. All that talk about bubble teams, forget it. Starting in February all the talk is about bubble teams. Now you can forget about them. Those teams were bubble teams for a reason, they couldn’t win consistently. Bubble trams from major conferences are bubble teams because their flawed. Not so much though with teams from mid majors. They can be dangerous.
12. Advance at least one First Four Winner to the Round of 32. Every year except one since the First Four started in 2011 at least one of the First Four teams has advanced to the Round of 32. Last year it was UCLA who made it all the way to the Final Four.
14. Conversely, no team has lost its first conference tournament game and then won a national title. This year, you should be a little suspicious of Baylor, Auburn and Illinois.
15. Lots of sometimes conflicting advice. But some trends emerge. Here’s what I’m looking at this year:
a. Starting with the Final Four – In the West – House rule – Michigan State takes the region. There’s 7 of your 11.4 points right there.
b. In the East – Baylor is banged up and they violate rule 14. I despise 2 seed Kentucky, if 3 seed Purdue makes it Chris will be even more unbearable so I’ll go with UCLA.
c. In the Midwest – With Kansas being Kansas and Auburn violating rule 14 I’ll take a flyer on the Friars from Providence. .
d. In the South – Arizona is the #1 seed for a reason. The Wildcats.
17. For my First Four upset I’ll take the winner of Rutgers / Notre Dame to take down Alabama. .
18. For the 14 over 3 upset– None this year. Colgate was everyone’s (thought not mine) sweetheart pick to upset Arkansas. Now the face another SEC team, Tennessee. I’m expecting the Vols to have a bit of a run this year.
19. For my 13 over 4 upset – Vermont is on a roll and I’ll take them to defeat the Razorbacks. And since I didn’t take a 14 over a 4, I’ll double down on a 13 over a 4 with the red hot Vermont Catamounts beating New Mexico State.
20. I’ll take New Mexico State to defeat UConn as my #12 over #5. Sorry Big Al. Let’s see if the Big Al rule applies to basketball.
21. Any 1 or 2s going to lose in the round of 32? Plenty, Kansas if course. Baylor’s injured and goes down and, of course, Izzo ends Coach Ks career in the second round.
Put it all together and here is my 2021 winning bracket