A Blueprint to Bracketology: 5 Keys to Filling Out the Men’s NCAA Tournament Bracket

It’s that time of year again.

Offices everywhere are filled with pools for pride, money, and even time off. Online outlets will have brackets galore to complete. And of course there is some kind of contest hosted by a 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 one in 9.2 quintillion). Every year, I too confidently submit for my chance to win yet every year, I fall short of winning that billion dollar reward (surprised). However, all those submission have not gone in vain. Filling out my NCAA Men’s Tournament bracket has become an art form that has gained me free food, bragging rights, and some cold hard cash throughout the years. Now I can’t guarantee a perfect bracket, but I can share these 5 key elements 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, the 15 seeded Florida Gulf Coast made it all the way to the Sweet 16, so it isn’t impossible, although it may be unlikely. Also, 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, suffered some key losses, and didn’t make it past the round of 32, losing to Dayton 55-53.

2. ALWAYS PICK A 12 SEED TO DEFEAT A 5 SEED
Over the last 10 years, 18 no. 5 seeds have defeated a 12 seed in the round of 64. In fact, there were six 5-12 upsets in the 2013 and 2014 seasons combined. 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 ONE 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 (go Spartans), 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”.

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