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You bracket, you bought it: Bracketology tips

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It’s that time again, that time of year when even the most casual of sports fans (and plenty of non-fans) start paying attention to the wild and wooly world of college hoops.

You guessed it, folks. NCAA tourney time is upon us.

Selection Sunday is on March 13 this year, so I figured I’d try to get some thoughts out there far enough in advance for you fine folks to take advantage when the time comes to fill out your own brackets.

(Please bear in mind - I’m no expert when it comes to the college hardwood. At all. I have the basic knowledge of the general sports fan and that’s it. However, I do have a touch of the degenerate gambler about me, so … take that for whatever you like.)

We all know the drill at this point: you pony up some cash or sign up for a contest and fill out your own copy of the bracket, picking winners all the way through the tournament, up to and including the 2022 champion. If you make the best picks, you win the pot.

Of course, with over 9 quintillion ways to fill out a bracket, the odds are not in your favor. But hey - there’s always a chance.

Here are a few of my (very basic) observations with regards to the sweet science of bracketology.


The selection committee is (usually) smarter than you are

Here’s the thing: I don’t care how many hours a day you spend searching sports websites and the blogosphere and trying to glean informative tidbits that justify picking a 14-seed to upset a 3-seed in the first round. These teams aren’t just seeded at random; the committee consists of experts who have made college basketball their lives.

Seeding almost always wins out, especially in the first two rounds, so trust the selection committee to do their jobs. If you’re dying to make upset picks, check out the 8-9 and 7-10 matchups. Those games tend to feature teams that are pretty evenly matched.

As for that “usually,” well … the committee is not without its blind spots. There is a degree of prejudice against teams from one-bid conferences, leading to lower seeding. But these are teams that often feature three- and four-year players, guys who have been a team for far longer than the handful of months many of the big name one-and-done NBA churn teams have put in. As such, it’s worth noting that we regularly see an upset in a 6-11 or 5-12 or 4-13 game; a roll of the dice here could wind up being very beneficial in your quest for bracket excellence. We’ve also seen an uptick in bigger upsets in recent years, though I’d advise against banking on a 16 seed taking down a top team.

In the end, though, you should do what you like. As I said – no one really knows anything.

Keep an eye on hot streaks

Check out things like conference tournament results; if a highly touted team made an early exit, they might be due to catch fire. If an overlooked team made a deep run, they might be on a “nobody believes in us” kick that could carry them deep into the NCAAs.

On the flip side, that early-exit team might have gone over a week without playing a game. That could lead to some rust. Also, if a team went all-out in the conference tournament, they might not have anything left for the Big Dance.

A corollary to this is media saturation - there’s always going to be one team that becomes a media darling going into the tournament that fails to live up to the hype (I’m looking at you, Duke). Look for third and fourth seeds out of power conferences and listen for buzzy terms like “tradition” and “heart” - it’s fairly common for a flavor of the week to flop when the games are played.

Don’t overthink

Let’s be honest. The true-blue fans and die-hard stat-heads rarely win these things. At the end, it seems like it is always the person who filled out their bracket in a seemingly illogical manner. Maybe his favorite color is blue, so he picked teams with blue uniforms to win. Maybe she went through and did the whole “Obviously, a tiger would beat a husky” comparative mascot thing. Maybe they just filled it out randomly.

Regardless, the point of this tip is that tips are pointless. You can invest a ton of time and energy, working out matchups and listening to the experts, only to lose in the end to the dude in the next cubicle who picked his winners by who came first alphabetically. Despite any attempts to be sensible, never forget that it is often the senseless selectors that go deep.


And there you have it. Time to enjoy the best postseason tournament in all of American sports. Have fun. Fill out your bracket however you like and cross your fingers. I know I will.

Last modified on Wednesday, 09 March 2022 06:52


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