At risk of giving too much advice to competitors within my bracket pools, (which are of course just for fun since gambling is not legal) here are some tips to filling out a bracket to win your pool.
- Teams that have point guards that can score will advance. This is a lesson that was taught to me years ago when Khalid El Amin led UCONN over Duke to win the national title back in ’99. I picked Villanova to make it to the final four last year because of Scottie Reynolds. Ty Lawson led UNC to the title last year averaging 21ppg. When Kansas won it two years ago they had a younger Sharron Collins and Super Mario also playing some point for them. UCLA advanced to the title game three seasons ago with Darren Collison in double figures in every game up until the title game in which they lost. Point guards that can score lead teams. This bodes well for Kansas (Collins), Kansas St. (Denis Clemente), Kentucky (John Wall), and Villanova who still has that Reynolds guy.
- Experience matters early in the tourney in the case of mid-major teams way more than for power conference teams. The Freshman and Sophomores from power teams have dealt with pressure all year, are the key players of their teams, and simply are too talented to fall off just because it’s the NCAA tourney. Mid-major teams with a lot of experience however, especially previous tourney experience, are the ones to watch out for when picking the upsets. So before you decide Sam Houston St. could knock off Baylor, check their roster and previous year.
- Beware of the high seeded team from a mid-major. This year it is specifically Butler who is a five seed in the Midwest Region. Last year no team from a mid-major was seeded higher than a nine (Butler and Siena), so neither was a stretch to win or lose. Go back two years and look at the fifth seeded Drake Bulldogs, who were also seeded fifth and fell to a fellow mid-major in Western Kentucky. When a mid-major is a higher seed it will typically see another mid-major team, who is the same team as the higher seeded team they’re playing in their own league or just got done knocking them off. They wont be afraid.
- Finally the past three years at least three teams from the prior year that went to the Sweet Sixteen have made it to the Elite Eight the following year. Of the 11 in the past three years, only one team had a lower seed (Memphis in ’07 was a #2 after being a #1 in ’06) than in the year in which they made the Elite Eight. So whom does that give an edge to heading into this years tourney? Let’s start with the teams who aren’t there that made the Sweet 16 last year: Oklahoma, North Carolina, Arizona, UCONN, and Memphis. We’ll leave out teams who may have made the Sweet 16 last year and who’s seed is significantly lower than it was a year ago: Louisville, Missouri, and Gonzaga. Purdue is a #4 when last year they were a #5, but without Robbie Hummel they aren’t the same team, out. Michigan St. went down three spots from a #2 to a #5, but that means they have to go through #1 Kansas so….out. Pitt and Xavier made the Sweet 16 last year and both dropped just two spots in seeding from a year ago, Pitt from a #1 to #3 and Xavier from a #4 to a #6. The fun part is that if both of them make it through the first round they will be matched up against each other to get to the second weekend. The remaining four teams all have a higher seed than the year prior and are all expected to make the Elite 8: Kansas, Syracuse, Duke, and Villanova. If things hold true to history than at least one of those teams probably wont make the final 8. It’s your decision on whom that will be.
So that’s the advice, that and hold onto your brackets until the last possible moment, nobody needs to see your selections until they can’t change theirs. More coming tomorrow so stay clicked.