It's next to impossible to pick the perfect bracket for March Madness. However, there are strategies you can use to outsmart others, even if you know very little about college basketball. Whatever approach you use, have fun with it, and good luck!
One of the reasons behind the popularity of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament is the yearly upsets that occur, especially in the first round. Looking back to past tournaments, trends show which pairings are more likely to see an upset than others. For a casual observer, you can use those statistics when making your picks.
As in past years, there are 68 teams in this year's NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. Following the completion of the First Four, you'll see four brackets formed of 16 teams each. In the first round, seeds are as follows:
- No. 1 vs. No. 16
- No. 2 vs. No. 15
- No. 3 vs. No. 14
- No. 4 vs. No. 13
- No. 5 vs. No. 12
- No. 6 vs. No. 11
- No. 7 vs. No. 10
- No. 8 vs. No. 9
According to the NCAA, the No. 10 seed has beaten the No. 7 seed a leading 39.3% of the time, versus just 5.7 percent for the No. 15 seed over the No. 2 seed. Since the tournament expanded in 1985, the No. 16 seed has only beaten a No. 1 seed once.
- No. 10 over No. 7, 39.3%
- No. 11 over No. 6, 37.1%
- No. 12 over No. 5, 35.7%
- No. 13 over No. 4, 20.7%
- No. 14 over No. 3, 15.0%
- No. 15 over No. 2, 5.7%
- No. 16 over No. 1, 0.71%
Therefore, when picking your brackets, your best bet is to pick upset wins for the No. 10, No. 11, and No. 12 seeds in a few of the brackets, and avoid picks for the No. 15, No. 15, and No. 16 teams.
Another method for picking tournament winners has nothing to do with brackets and seeds. Instead, it's all about the mascots! Before this year's tournament 304 schools have played an NCAA tournament game since 1985. These teams have been represented by mascots in one of nine categories: Bears, Birds, Cats, Dogs, Miscellaneous, Mythical, Other Animals, People, Weather/Elemental.
Of these, teams with Mythical (58.1%) and Miscellaneous (57.5%) mascots performed better than all others. The biggest losers are teams represented by Bears (46.5%) and Weather/Elemental (47.9%).
Odds and ends
When making your bracket, you should also take some risks by picking a Cinderella team to at least make the Sweet 16. Why? Because it happens nearly every year!
You should also assume that most, if not all, of the No.1 seeds, are going to make it far in the tournament. That's why they are No. 1 seeds, after all. Going back to 1979, 24 of the 41 national championships have been won by a No. 1 seed.
Unsurprisingly, no seed is as successful as the No. 1 seed. They have 24 of the 41 national championships since 1979. Second on this list are No. 2 seeds, which have won the tournament seven times.
Finally, when looking beyond the first round, understand that there's never been a national champion seeded No. 9 through No. 16. The lowest seed to ever win was in 1985 when No. 8 Villanova beat No. 1 Georgetown.
Have fun because the odds aren't in your favor
As the Chicago Tribune explains, you are three quadrillion times more likely to get struck by lightning than to pick the perfect bracket. Therefore, the experts suggest not sweating the early rounds.
Once you get past the first and even second round, start comparing teams based on wins and losses, and even head-to-head matchups. Whatever you do, have fun.
How do you do it?
What recipe do you use when making selections for March Madness? Let us know in the comments below.
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Bryan M. Wolfe has written about technology for over a decade on various websites, including TechRadar, AppAdvice, and many more. Before this, he worked in the technology field across different industries, including healthcare and education. He’s currently iMore’s lead on all things Mac and macOS, although he also loves covering iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Bryan enjoys watching his favorite sports teams, traveling, and driving around his teenage daughter to her latest stage show, audition, or school event in his spare time. He also keeps busy walking his black and white cocker spaniel, Izzy, and trying new coffees and liquid grapes.