THE NIGHTMARE SITUATION: It’s 11:00 am on Thursday. You’re in an NCAA Tournament pool, but you haven’t had the time to even look at the bracket, much less fill it out. And you have less than an hour to make sense of a sheet of paper and condense an entire season of college basketball you haven’t watched into 63 decisions. And did we mention you have less than an hour?
Fret not. We’re here to help. Just ask yourself this question:
What do you want to do in relation to your bracket pool?
Seems very easy to answer, doesn’t it? Not so fast. While your conscious reaction is “I wanna win!”, something deep inside you may tell you something else. Perhaps you want your bracket to be unique. Perhaps you want to call the upset that no one dared to predict. Just a little something to inflate your ego. Or, maybe you’re just in the pool to have a little fun, and watch the faces of your co-workers squirm, as they, who care deeply about college basketball, have their brackets trumped by someone who put something together in the eleventh hour.
Whatever the case may be, there’s a bracket for you.
1. “I just want to win”
You have pure capitalism or bragging rights in mind. You just need to win your office pool.
Solution: Go Chalk.
Most of the other members of your pool are likely to try some crazy method of predicting every last upset. When all of the crazy methods are taken, most of what usually remains is rational. Those top seeds are at the top for a reason. Since the expansion of the tournament to 64 teams, at least one #1 seed has reached the final four every year. Usually, it’s around two.
Strategy: Pick the two #1 seeds you think are the strongest and let them pass to the Final Four. From the two other regions, pick one top seed to exit in the Sweet 16 and one to exit in the Elite 8, and allow a seed between #2 and #5 to win the region. Then pick one or two upsets in the 5/12 and 6/11 matchups, flip a coin for the 7/10s and the 8/9s, and take the favorites in the remaining first round matchups, and fill the rest of the bracket at your whim. Chances are that you won’t be far off.
2. “I want to call the upset”
You need to show off some basketball “knowledge”. You need to predict the upset that no one saw coming.
Solution: Calculate your Upset.
Let us first make one thing clear 8/9 and 7/10 matchups are far too close to be considered upsets. At the same time, 2/15 and 1/16 upsets are too statistically implausible. However, you can typically count on the underdog to win 3-5 of the 3/14, 4/13, 5/12, and 6/11 matchups. For the latter rounds, one of the 6 seeds will always beat a 3, and at least one 2 seed usually gets taken down by a 7 or 10 seed every year.
Strategy: Take from this pool…
#11 Kansas State: Michael Beasley may be the best player in college basketball.
#11 St. Joseph’s: Their coach is experienced, and they had to beat #3 seeded Xavier twice in 2 weeks to earn an at-large bid.
#11 Baylor: Their opponent, Purdue, is inexperienced and from a weaker conference.
#12 Villanova: See Baylor. Their point guard, Scottie Reynolds, is crucial to success.
#12 Western Kentucky: talented team going up against high-seeded mid-major.
#12 Temple: Atlantic 10 Champions, and Michigan State has underachieved in recent tournaments.
#13 Winthrop: Both Winthrop and their opponents play slow; this game will be close no matter what.
#13 Oral Roberts: ORU is not new to this stage, and Pitt may let down after the Big East tournament.
#13 San Diego: Won the West Coast Conference, who brought 3 teams to the tourney.
#14 Georgia: Hey, they’ve come this far.
Choose 3-4 of these Cinderellas and season to taste in the first round. After that, pick a couple of #2 seeds to go down in the second round.
3. “I want to have fun”.
The tournament is a roller coaster. You just want to be along for the ride.
Solution: Get creative.
Or in the case of time limitations, let other people be creative for you. Take a cue from Storming the Floor, and decide by which mascot would win in a fight. You can pick completely at random for all that anyone cares. No one can ever truly predict these things; it has largely to do with luck. However, remember to keep luck on your side. In almost all brackets, all of the 1 seeds and half of the 2 and 3 seeds should make the Sweet 16. After that, go crazy. Who knows, you might even win.
Strategy: There is no strategy. Just wing it, have fun, sit back, and enjoy the four most chaotic days in sports.