Guide to keeping your NCAA Tournament bracket from getting busted
CINCINNATI (WKRC) - It's the time of year when just everybody is picking an NCAA Tournament bracket - whether it's the "expert," casual fan or even the fan who drops in to pay attention only at this time of the year, it's just fun to have a rooting interest in more than just your favorite team (especially if you can turn $5 or $10 into a few hundred dollars if you win your company office pool).
You can make your selections by doing some research on each team, sure, but for many that takes too much time and effort for something deemed simple fun. Some will make their selections just off the seeds alone, but that doesn't always work out. Some will make them based on nicknames or colors or some other random way, but that won't work either.
There is no exact right way to do it, because it's an inexact game, but it doesn't take an "expert" to win either, because there are just so many random things that can happen to bust a bracket.
Despite writing that here a few things to note, and then my picks for each round by region follows:
NO. 1 SEEDS HAVE NEVER LOST A FIRST-ROUND GAME AND NO. 2 SEEDS HAVE RARELY LOST: Since the NCAA went to the 64-team format in 1985 (and it's since been expanded to 68 teams) a No. 1 seed has never lost a first-round game. They are 132-0. The No. 2 seeds have gone 124-8 in that same time span, although a No. 2 seed lost four games between 2012 and 2016. Until a No. 2 lost in 2012 (and two lost that season, Missouri and Duke) a No. 2 hadn't lost a game since 2001. Based on the flurry of success from 2012-2016 it may be awhile before a No. 2 loses a first-round game again based on the law of averages. Also, even if you pick against a No. 2 seed in the first round, a No. 15 seed has won only one second-round game since 1985 and never advanced beyond the Sweet 16.
UPSETS DO HAPPEN (IN EARLY ROUNDS): While a No. 1 seed has never lost a first-round game and No. 2 seeds have been very successful it should be noted that upsets do happen. Tossing out No. 9 seeds vs. No. 8 seeds, because they are toss-up games (No. 8 seeds are 67-65 since 1985), No. 10 seeds are 51-81 since 1985, No. 11 seeds are 49-83 and No. 12 seeds are 47-85. The upsets by No. 13 seeds and No. 14 seeds are more rare as No. 13 seeds are 26-106 and No. 14 seeds are 21-111, but combined it means at least one No. 13 or a No. 14 seed will pull likely off a first-round upset.
IF YOU PICK A NO. 10-SEED TO WIN ONE GAME, PICK IT TO WIN TWO: If you go out on a limb to have a team seeded No. 10-No. 12 to win a first-round game you might as well pick it to win two. Teams seeded No. 10-12 are 63-94 in second-round games, which is 42.8 percent of the time. Teams seeded No. 13-15 have won only nine second-round games combined (six by No. 13 seeds).
NO. 1 SEEDS USUALLY MAKE THE SWEET 16: The No. 1 vs. No. 8/9 seed in the second-round seems to produce some great matchups, and you may be tempted to pick a second-round upset, but don't. A No. 1 seed has won 86 percent of second-round games since 1985.
GO WITH THE CHALK IN SWEET 16: No. 1 seeds have won 81 percent of their Sweet 16 games since 1985 and No. 2 seeds have won 73 percent of their Sweet 16 games.
DON'T PICK ALL NO. 1 AND NO. 2 SEEDS TO MAKE THE FINAL FOUR: Since 1985, 82 of the 132 Final Four teams have been either a No. 1 or a No. 2 seed, but that means 50 teams haven't or an average of 1.5 non-No. 1 or No. 2 seeds per season made the Final Four.
DON'T PICK A NO. 12 SEED OR HIGHER TO MAKE THE FINAL FOUR: It hasn't happened since 1985. Not many teams seeds No. 5-11 have made it either (just a combined 22).
DON'T PICK A NO. 9 SEED OR HIGHER TO WIN IT ALL: No team seeded higher than No. 8 has won the title since 1985, and the breakdown of champions by seed in that span is as follows: No. 1 seeds - 20 titles; No. 2 seeds - five titles; No. 3 seeds - four titles; No. 4, No. 6, No. 7 and No. 8 seed - one title each. A No. 5 seed has never won the title either, which is why it's worth it to pick against a couple in the first round.
MY PICKS BY REGION
- First-Round Winners: No. 1 Villanova; No. 9 Alabama; No. 12 Murray State; No. 4 Wichita State; No. 6 Florida; No. 14 Stephen F. Austin; No. 10 Butler; No. 2 Purdue
- Second-Round Winners: No. 1 Villanova; No. 12 Murray State; No. 6 Florida; No. 2 Purdue.
- Regional Semifinal Winners: No. 1 Villanova; No. 2 Purdue.
- Regional Champion: No. 1 Villanova.
The Skinny: Sure, it gets chalky at the end, but Villanova has been one of the most consistent teams in the country all season and is back to full strength after going a few weeks without a couple of key players.
Murray State is a first-round upset pick because they don't turn the ball over (a little over 11 per game) and first-round opponent West Virginia struggles if it doesn't turn teams over. Like I wrote above, if I pick a No. 12 to win one game I might as well pick it to win two games, and Wichita State is a vulnerable No. 4 seed.
Texas Tech is a vulnerable No. 3 seed that overachieved in the regular season and I am picking Florida to go to the Sweet 16 anyway so I might as well pick Stephen F. Austin to pull off the upset of Texas Tech in the first round.
I was tempted to pick Florida over Purdue, but the metrics suggest Purdue is one of the top five teams in the nation.
- First-Round Winners: No. 1 Kansas; No. 8 Seton Hall; No. 12 New Mexico State; No. 4 Auburn; No. 11 Arizona State; No. 3 Michigan State; No. 10 Oklahoma; No. 2 Duke.
- Second-Round Winners: No. 1 Kansas; No. 4 Auburn; No. 3 Michigan State; No. 2 Duke.
- Regional Semifinal Winners: No. 1 Kansas; No. 3 Michigan State.
- Regional Champion: No. 3 Michigan State.
The Skinny: I am just not a big believer in the Big 12 being as great a conference as it has been billed, which is why I have Michigan State winning this region and Arizona State knocking off No. 6-seed TCU in the first-round.
New Mexico State is an upset pick over Clemson, because it is very good defensively and Clemson is not very dynamic offensively. Even if Clemson wins I don't think it beats Auburn so might as well go with the first-round upset.
Duke is very talented, but didn't win either the ACC regular-season title or conference tournament title so it's hard to pick the Blue Devils to win this challenging region.
- First-Round Winners: No. 1 Virginia; No. 8 Creighton; No. 5 Kentucky; No. 4 Arizona; No. 11 Loyola (Chicago); No. 3 Tennessee; No. 10 Texas; No. 2 UC.
- Second-Round Winners: No. 1 Virginia; No. 4 Arizona; No. 3 Tennessee; No. 2 UC.
- Regional Semifinal Winners: No. 4 Arizona; No. 2 UC.
- Regional Champion: No. 4 Arizona.
The Skinny: Arizona has arguably the best player in the tournament in 7-foot-1 freshman DeAndre Ayton, and both he and the Wildcats are playing at a very high level right now.
Virginia's style of play is great to pile up regular-season wins, but makes it hard to beat elite teams in the NCAA Tournament.
Loyola is the only real upset pick in the first round, and while I think Miami (Fla.) is really good and capable of making the Elite Eight, Loyola is very close in some key metrics, which makes the upset pick worth it, especially when I have Tennessee advancing to the Sweet 16, anyway.
It's hard to pick UC to win make the Final Four because it just isn't a great offensive team, but defense can carry the Bearcats to the Elite Eight.
- First-Round Winners: No. 1 Xavier; No. 8 Missouri; No. 5 Ohio State; No. 4 Gonzaga; No. 6 Houston; No. 3 Michigan; No. 10 Providence; No. 2 North Carolina.
- Second-Round Winners: No. 1 Xavier; No. 4 Gonzaga; No. 3 Michigan; No. 2 North Carolina.
- Regional Semifinal Winners: No. 1 Xavier; No. 2 North Carolina.
- Regional Champion: No. 2 North Carolina.
The Skinny: Much like UC doesn't have a good enough offense to carry it to the Final Four, Xavier isn't good enough defensively to get there.
The Muskeeteers will likely face a tough game in the second round, because Missouri just got one of the top NBA prospects back in the last couple of weeks in Michael Porter Jr., although he has a lot of rust to shake off.
Likely Sweet 16 foe Gonzaga is very underrated, because some key metrics make it the No. 8 overall team in the country (and those same metrics have Xavier No. 14).
North Carolina has too much talent to have lost 10 games, but it came against the toughest schedule in the country and the Tar Heels also won 25 games against that schedule.
- Semifinal Winners: North Carolina; Villanova.
- National Champion: Villanova.
The Skinny: The Wildcats pass the eye test more than any team in the country and now that they are back to full health I can't make a better case for any other team to win it.