Need help filling out your bracket? Want to know which teams are sleepers this year? Who's going to be upset in the first round? Who's going to win it all?
You've come to the right place. Follow these 10 guidelines and you'll be that much closer to a perfect bracket, winning your office pool or just getting revenge on your mom who picked George Mason to get to the final four because green and yellow are her favorite colors.
March Madness is finally here, let's make it a memorable one...
- Match-ups, Match-ups, Match-ups. We all love to predict which teams will make the final four and which teams will be upset in the first round before the bracket ever comes out, but in reality, until you see the bracket, these predictions are useless. A really bad 3-seed might make the elite eight if they get the right draw and a really good 8-seed might lose in the first round if they play the wrong 9-seed. Look at what kinds of teams a school loses to above all else. Do they lose to team that have a lot of size? Always play zone? Full court press?
- The RPI does not exist. It is worse than the BCS, by a lot. And according to Kenneth Pomeroy, it is dead. R.I.P. RPI.
- Teams that rely too much on defense, no matter how good their defense is, are capable of being upset (See: Georgetown 2008). The tournament has so much anticipation, importance, and energy surrounding it that average players from average teams have a tendency to turn into superstars, if only for 40 minutes. There is so much emotion in these games, that no matter how good your defense is, you can't stop a guy with a focused eye and a hot hand. If you can't keep up offensively, you can't keep up. Plus, "defensive-minded" teams tend to play a slower style, which means fewer possessions, which means fewer chances to prove that you are better than the other team.
- Teams that live and die by the three, almost always die by it. (See: Tennessee 2008). In order to make a run in the Big Dance you need consistency, and there is no more inconsistent shot in college basketball than the 3-pointer. If the longball isn't falling, which it won't, you need a backup plan. For some teams, that back up plan is to shoot more 3s. This is not a good backup plan.
- Extenuating circumstances are more important than any statistic. (See: Indiana 2008). A team that has "issues," whether they be school related, staff related or player related, has the potential to play much better or much worse than they are. Indiana had about twice as much talent as Arkansas last year, but the Hoosiers lost to the Razorbacks by 14 in the first round of the 2008 NCAA tourney because of the lingering effects of the scandal surrounding IU basketball and [former] coach Kelvin Sampson. Note: "extenuating circumstances" applies to injuries too.
- A win is not a win. A loss is not a loss. We have a bad habit of looking at nothing more than who beat who, and not the conditions surrounding the wins and losses. What was the margin of victory? Was it home? away? neutral? Was it right after a big win? Was a key player injured? Was it senior night? Not to pick on last year's Georgetown team, but they are a prime example of a team whose record is distorted. Six of their 15 Big East wins last year came by three-points or less (2 in OT). And none of their regular season losses were closer than 7-point-games. If you changed a half-dozen shots over the course of their season, the Hoyas could have been 9-9 in conference instead of the 15-3 that they were. That would have put them squarely on the bubble (instead, they were a 2-seed and lost in the second round).
- History repeats itself, for better or for worse. (See Kansas 2005, 2006 and Milwaukee (WI) 2005, 2006). Some teams have a knack for upsetting higher seeds like Milwaukee did to Alabama and Oklahoma in '05 and '06. Some teams have a knack for being upset like Kansas had in those same two years to Bucknell and then to Bradley. Need more evidence? Look at UCLA. Three final fours in the past three years, no championships (even with the golden C on their jersey). The root of this phenomenon is simple. Some coaches are good tournament coaches, some aren't. Some players are good tournament players, some aren't.
- You know that high-profile school with a lot of talent that should win its 8/9 matchup despite having struggled all year? Yeah, they're going to lose. (See: Indiana 2008, Arizona 2007, Texas 2005...etc.) This happens every year, and every year we see the same outcome. Why do we trick ourselves into thinking, "well you know what, they have the talent, I bet they can turn it around for the tournament." They couldn't turn it around in the previous 30 or so games, they're not going to turn it around now. We might care that certain "big name" schools have rich histories and prestige, but you know who doesn't care? Their opponents.
- If a #1 seed is not spectacular, they're not making it to the final four. The whole "all four #1 seeds in the final four" thing finally happened last year, get over it. It may never happen again. As we have seen this year, having that fat #1 tattoo on your team's forehead is a dangerous thing, and in the tournament there are four #1s. That means four times as many bull's-eyes for the rest of the field to aim at.
- Winning your conference tournament is overrated, no matter how good the conference is. (See: all of them). There is a perceived invincibility to teams that win their conference tournament, but statistically (especially of late) this is not true. In the case of an underdog winning a big one (Georgia in '08, Syracuse in '06, Maryland in '04) it often seems as if the victory of the conference tourney satisfies the team, and a satisfied team is a losing team. Or think about it this way... if you're a one, two, three, four, or maybe even five seed in the Big Dance, who are you playing in the first round? Well, another team that just won their conference tournament, and one of you has to lose.