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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Tips for Filling out Your Bracket

It's an event even non-college basketball fans look forward to: the annual filling out of their NCAA Bracket. Seemingly every year a cinderella story emerges when a team no one believed in upsets a good team from a power conference. There are other trends and stats to look at when picking and as a wise man once said "it's all about the matchups." I don't know who this wiseman was but it sounds good to me.

First Round:
  • Pick your #1 & #2 seeds to advance. A #16 seed has never upset a top seed and though this year may finally be the first, don't count on it. #2 seeds have lost four times though none since 2001. This year I believe the #16 seeds are actually better than the #15 seeds. Don't waste your time.
  • #3 seeds are 92-16 (85.19%) in the first round while #4 seeds are 85-23 (78.7%).  It's possible a #3 will fall but it's more likely one of the #4 seeds will be upset.
  • The classic #5-#12 matchup is where most people like to pick their upsets.  The #12 seed pulls it off one third of the time as #5 seeds are 72-36 in the first round.
  • #6 seeds are also likely to be upset. Many people fail to capitalize on this in their picks but #11 seeds have the exact same winning percentage as #12 seeds in the first round (33%).
  • #7 seeds are 65-43 (60.2%) in the first round.
  • The 8-9 game is essentially a coin flip as the #9's actually win at a slightly higher rate (52.78%).
Sweet 16
  • It's a pretty good idea to put your #1 seeds in the Sweet 16.  Not only are they the superior team (they win this game 88% of the time), they generally have a semi-home court advantage. Take Kentucky this year as an example.  The Wildcats will be playing the winner of Iowa St. and Connecticut in Louisville.  Not exactly a favorable location for the opponent.
  • #2's, on the other hand are no guarantee to advance past the first round. #2 seeds are 23-9 (72%) against #7 seeds in the second round but actually have a losing record against #10 seeds (12-14). This bodes well for Purdue, Xavier, West Virginia, and Virginia if they're able to win in the first round. 
  • #3 seeds win about two-thirds of the time vs. #11 seeds but just over half the time vs. #6 seeds.
  • #4 seeds have a losing records vs. #5 seeds (46%) but kick the crap out of #12 seeds (69%).
  • #5 seeds are 13-2 vs. #13 seeds.
  • In the last 15 years only one #14 seed and three #13 seeds have made the Sweet 16.
Elite 8
  • An average of 2.8 #1 seeds make the it to the Elite 8.  So go ahead and pick 3.
  • #2 seeds get there just shy of 25% of the time.
  • #3 seeds average 1.2 appearances in the Elite 8.
  • A #4, #5, or #6 seed gets to the Elite 8 about every other year.
  • Only one #12 seed has made the Elite 8 (Missouri 2002).
Final Four
  • Once you make it this far it's up to your gut.  Only once have all #1 seeds made it to the Final Four. Only twice have no #1 seeds made it.
  • The lowest seed to make it to the Final Four is a #11 and it's been done twice.
Other Nuggets
  • According to Luke Winn at, protected seeds (1-4) who have a great offense but a poor defense tend not to do well in the tournament.  This does not bode well for Missouri, Duke, and Indiana.  This also should scare Creighton fans as Jays own one of the worst defenses in the tournament.
  • Looking at how a team fared on the road this season is an indicator I like to utilize when trying to choose in a close game.  Remember there are no home games in March.
  • Teams that don't turn the ball over are great bets to advance in games that seem like a toss up (this is obvious, right?).  The top five teams at protecting the ball (according to are Purdue, Wisconsin, Missouri, South Dakota St., and Syracuse.
  • Mid-majors tend to be less athletic and smaller than teams from the power conferences.  Where they make up ground is in their three point shooting.  Teams that shoot a lot of 3's and shoot them well are good upset picks against teams who don't defend the perimeter well.  
    • The top first round beneficiaries in this regard appear to be Purdue against St. Mary's and Murray St. vs. Colorado St.
    • The toughest are Michigan vs. Ohio and Belmont vs. Georgetown.
  • Teams that are good offensive rebounding teams are good bets to pull off upsets as well.  The best offensive rebounding teams in the tournament are: New Mexico St., West Virginia, Kansas St., UNC, and Loyola-MD. 
  • If you can't get second chance points you better prevent your opponent from doing the same. The best defensive rebounding teams are: Ohio St., Virginia, Wichita St., Creighton, and St. Mary's. This is not a good omen for Syracuse who not only is the worst rebounding team in the tournament but ranked ahead of just four teams in the nation.
  • When your shots aren't falling one way to get points is by getting fouled. The best teams at getting to the line are New Mexico St., Gonzaga, Indiana, Murray St., and Duke.
  • And finally it's better to be lucky than good when making your picks.  Everyone knows Kentucky is a great team but that doesn't mean they're going to win it all.  You're probably going to need to get 3 Final Four teams right and be the one who picked this year's George Mason or VCU going farther than anyone else expected.

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