Bracket Busting

Sorry I was gone for a week. It was championship week, so I was in the mancave watching the 800 hours of college hoops that precedes the NCAA Tournament.

It’s funny how within a day of the NCAA Tournament bracket coming out, people ask me about brackets because college basketball “is my thing.” And they seemed surprised when I either don’t have answers for them, or they discover I don’t win a pool every single year.

I do know college basketball. Who’s good, who’s not good, etc. But the NCAA Tournament isn’t like, say, baseball.

Someone asked me how if I knew so much about basketball, why I didn’t do better with my picks, and they asked during a baseball game. That guy was a baseball expert. I told him “You know baseball, you know everything about this team and a lot about the other team. What’s going to happen on each of the next 63 pitches?”

He got the point right away: I know basketball, but if I could predict the future, I’d be a full-time gambler and live like Biff Tannen in 2025 from Back to the Future II.

So if you’re looking for advice, there’s some principles I always use…

  1. The top four seeds are winning their first game.
  2. Upsets are for show, your final four wins you dough. Pick the teams you think are the best and will go far. Teams you don’t think will go far, feel free to pick an upset, relying on your favorite to “clean up the mess” if your upset pick is wrong.

For example, last year, UNC was a powerhouse, so I picked Western Kentucky to upset Illinois and Gonzaga… because I knew that if I was wrong, UNC was going to beat Illinois or Gonzaga. I got the first game right, then Gonzaga beat WKU and UNC beat Gonzaga. If you lose the upset pick, people think you’ve got guts to pick an upset. If you win, you look like a genius. And all you’re really doing is making the obvious pick: UNC to come out of that part of the bracket.

  1. There’s almost always a 5-12 upset, the key is to pick the right one. Usually, the 12-5 that everyone has… is the wrong one. The popular one now is Cornell over Temple. I’d go with UTEP or Utah State.
  2. In a 7-10 game, the “mid-major” usually wins, unless they are BYU. This won’t help you this year, because two 7-10 games have no mid-majors, one is TWO mid-majors, and the only game pitting a mid-major vs major is BYU vs Florida. (I’m taking Florida)
  3. Teams which don’t deserve to be in the tournament usually win a game. This is “the house money principle.” Washington, Cal, Florida, Minnesota meet this description
  4. Another part of the house money principle is that teams who were supposed to be really good, but struggled with high expectations are good bets. Because they were dealing with the pressure of high expectations, and were panicking about missing the tournament. But now they are in. And have nothing to lose. And the reason they had high expectations, is because they were talented to begin with. Teams like Texas, Georgia Tech fit that bill
  5. Teams that were supposed to win their conference tournaments because they won their conference, but didn’t, usually play well in the NCAA Tournament. It’s like a wake-up call. They’d gone a long time without losing, and now they remember how much is sucks and come out hell bent on not losing. That’d be Syracuse, New Mexico, Villanova, UTEP and Gonzaga (although, this isn’t the usual Gonzaga team, they’re not as good as years past).
  6. Teams I hate always seem to win. Maybe this is because I hate a lot of teams, just to different degrees. For the record, the team I hate more than anyone, is Syracuse.
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