I remember being six years old and incredibly excited when my Uncle came home on Monday from work with the LA Times sprawled with the March Madness brackets. He had taught me all about the tournament and the excitement of filling out brackets in the hope of one day going a perfect 63/63. As a kid, it was fun to randomly guess on games of teams I had never seen, and colleges that I had never heard of. I remember having a weird infatuation with University of Milwaukee at Wisconsin, loving Xavier as they reminded me of the X-Men, and always picking UCLA, regardless of their team talent that year. After all the years of experience, I view myself not as a bracket expert, but an expert in what not to do.
- DON’T PICK A #16 SEED
This should be an easy one, but for first-timers and amateurs, this is something not to do. Even for the “experts” who think they have an inside track on the game should know to never pick a 16 seed, a 16 seed has never beaten a 1 seed in the tournament. Until it happens, you should keep rolling with the closest to guaranteed win that you could possibly get. Only situations I allow picking the 16 seed are: if you went to the school of the 16 seed or you need to try and make a million dollars in the fastest possible time.
2. Don’t share a bracket with a friend or love interest.
The only easier way to ruin a relationship, is to have sex with the other person’s mother. There is always going to be one game the two of you don’t agree on, but eventually convince one another to go with. When that game falls apart and the team you pick gets blown out, you will have the shadow lurking over the two of you. It will be silent until the tension eventually boils into a massive eruption and possible fight.
3. Don’t just do one.
I love to have a main bracket where my make my most sane and rational decisions with exception for the gut feelings I am very passionate about. It takes me filling out a few brackets and thinking with different mindsets in order to get the bracket I really want by the end of it.
4. Don’t brag about any bracket besides your main or best bracket.
If you filled out 20 brackets with a bunch of different results, nobody cares about the one bracket where you picked Norfolk State to win, and really you’re just lying to yourself.
5. Don’t pick the repeat Cinderella.
I learned this with George Mason, just because they had the miracle run one year, the percentage chance of another miracle run years later again is highly unlikely. The one true scenario where this happened was the Butler team that went to back to back National title games, except they returned multiple guys from the first team. They had the experience of tournament games, and also a generational coach in Brad Stevens.
6. Don’t overestimate your conference.
As a Pac-12 fan who watches UCLA games religiously, I often over-estimate my own guys to a fault. Occasionally, I will know stuff that will get me a random game in odd years, but most years when multiple Pac-12 teams are in the tournament, I take a lot of swinging misses. Back when the Big East was a thing, this was a big problem for brackets.
7. Don’t pick a team because you know one player.
Luke Harangody was a beast in college for Notre Dame, the dude averaged over 20 ppg his last three years at college and was the Big East player of the year. Each year I expected him to be able to put the team on his back and lead them to the final four. That never happened, and he never even made it past the second round of the playoffs, only making it past the first round. If a team is lower than a 6 seed, you should not pick them based off one guy.
8. Don’t fall for average teams.
Upsets often happen when regular average teams who play (20–10) basketball fall into typical schemes and styles. They usually are so caught up in playing the style that everyone else does, they don’t realize the style they are playing in is often a cheaper version of what teams with actual talent do. So in March Madness they might see a “bad” team, but that bad team may be playing basketball at a crazy tempo, or run 4 guard lineups, or run a 5 wings 3pt shooter lineup, or be something people call Dunk City. Average teams get upset, being different gets you big wins.
9. Don’t let your hate for stop you from being objective.
I hate Duke with a passion, they are everything I hate about class systems, and Coach K’s inside track on recruiting from coaching the USA basketball team just gets me upset. I’ve learned over the years that I cannot pick Duke to lose their first round game every year, and instead choose to have them lose in the sweet sixteen or elite eight.
10. Don’t not go all in on Tom Izzo or Rick Pitino
Regardless of the year and level of their teams, these coaches will make some crazy runs in the tournament that will either completely ruin your bracket or make you look terrible. I picked Louisville to go to the title game this year, so I’m pretty crazy, but also excited.