By Grace Rozembajgier
Tomorrow marks the beginning of possibly the most exciting time of the year — March Madness — and this year’s bracket is a brutal one. There are an infinite number of ways to fill out your bracket, ranging from historical team stats to mascots. Since deciding the outcomes of 63 games can be a little overwhelming, here are some pointers to help make these very important decisions a bit easier.
- Don’t underestimate No. 1 seeds
Although it might be unexciting to repeatedly pick the higher seeds, the No. 1 seeds are ranked this high for a reason. Villanova, Gonzaga, North Carolina, and Kansas all have experience in the NCAA tournament, with a collective 151 appearances. Also, only in 1980, 2006, and 2011 did a No. 1 seed not make it to the Final Four and seven out of the last 10 championships were claimed by a 1 seed.
- Pick some upsets…but don’t get carried away
Upsets put the madness in the game, so you have to pick at least one if you want your bracket to be successful. A recent study by Davidson University found 76% of March Madness upsets are by a No. 10, 11, or 12 seed. The key to picking your upset team is to consider matchup and offensive and defensive talent. This year, Wichita State looks to be a good sleeper pick. Ranked as a 10 seed in the Southern Region, they should upset No. 7 Dayton, as the Shockers hold the fifth highest average rebounds per game. Also, they should put up a good fight against Kentucky in the second round considering their close loss last year to the Wildcats. Don’t let your Cinderella teams go too far, though. In the history of the tournament, only four double-digit seeds have reached the elusive Final Four.
- Coaching matters!
In such a high-stakes tournament, it is essential to have a coach with strong leadership and play-calling skills, along with tournament experience. Fifteen of the past 17 championships, and 24 of the past 29, have been won by coaches who had already been to the Final Four. In this year’s bracket, six coaches from seeds 1, 2, and 3 (50%) have no Final Four experience: Mark Few of Gonzaga, Sean Miller of Arizona, Scott Drew of Baylor, Leonard Hamilton of Florida State, Dana Altman of Oregon, and Steve Alford of UCLA. However, Duke’s Coach K, North Carolina’s Roy Williams, and Michigan State’s Tom Izzo have all won championships and hold a good chance of doing so again this year.
- Strength of Schedule
Sometimes it can be deceiving to look at your bracket and see 29-5 UNC Wilmington at No. 12 face a 22-10 Virginia at No. 5. With UNC winning 16% more of its games than Virginia, it may seem like a no-brainer to pick them. However, a closer look will show you that UNC ranked 120th in the NCAA for strength of schedule while Virginia secured 4th place from battling a rigorous ACC schedule. Not to mention with Virginia’s fast-paced offense senior guard London Perrantes averaging 12.5 points per game, it might be difficult for UNC to pull off the upset. A team’s strength of schedule is always worth the research time because it’s an easy way to weed out the good teams from the great teams.
- Have fun!
While it might sound cliché, this really is the most important thing to remember when picking your March Madness teams. The chance of picking a perfect bracket is 1 in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 — you have a better chance of winning the lottery and getting struck by lightning at the same time. The real fun of the season comes from competing with your friends and cheering for your picks. But now’s the time to act…you only have until 12:14 pm tomorrow to get your lucky picks in! Good luck to everyone participating and may the odds be in your favor!