Well, it’s that time of year again. You have printed out your bracket, but you have no clue where to start. That’s why I’m here to help you through the grueling process of filling out an NCAA Tournament bracket, sort of.
Here are a few hints, tips and stats to consider when filling it out.
First, don’t stress yourself out about it. You aren’t filling out a FAFSA form or filing taxes. This is basketball. Filling out the bracket is supposed to be part of the fun.
With that in mind, let’s get started.
A No. 1 seed has never lost to a No. 16 seed, ever. This season, the No. 1 seeds are no joke. Kentucky is undefeated and two of the other three No. 1 seeds have won 30 games already this season. The four teams have a combined record of 126-9 this season, the best record of four No. 1 seeds since 2008 when the No. 1 seeds had a record of 127-9.
The No. 2 seeds have had little trouble with No. 15 seeds, but that isn’t the case lately. In recent history, No. 2 seeds have had difficulty with No. 15 seeds and this was none more prevalent than in 2012, when two No. 15 seeds pulled off the upset. In 2013, Georgetown was run over by Florida Gulf Coast. No. 15 seeds are 3-9 in the last three tournaments.
This year’s No. 2 seeds are very strong. Virginia, Arizona and Gonzaga should have little or no trouble with their opponents. The only team I question is Kansas. However, I think the Jayhawks will survive the Aggies of New Mexico State.
The No. 3 vs. No. 14 matchup has always belonged to the No. 3 seed, but this has been especially true since 2004. Over the past decade, the No. 3 seed holds a 42-6 edge over the No. 14 seed. Despite that terrific mark, a No. 3 seed has fallen in the past two seasons. Duke lost to Mercer last year and Harvard beat New Mexico in 2013. I like all No. 3 seeds to advance this season, especially Iowa State.
The No. 4 vs. No. 13 matchup has always been a fascinating one, to me at least. While a lot of people pick upsets in these games, the No. 4 team rarely loses. Over the past 10 years, the No. 4 seed holds a 38-10 record over the No. 13 seed. Still, that averages out to one lost per year. Five of the 10 victories for the No. 13 seed have come from the West Region. Harvard is the No. 13 seed in the West this year and the Crimson has been known to pull off upsets before. They beat Cincinnati last year, but will play a better North Carolina team this year. Another possible upset is Eastern Washington over Georgetown. Georgetown is 2-5 in the tournament since making a run to the national semifinal in 2007, which means the Hoyas might “exit stage left” sooner than they want.
The No. 5 vs. No. 12 matchup has been almost dead even since 2004. While the No. 5 seed holds the slight edge in terms of record, 25-23, the No. 12 seed is 6-2 the past two years. This year’s No. 5 seeds are pretty good. I like Arkansas to beat Wofford and Northern Iowa to beat Wyoming. The two No. 12 seeds that scare me are Buffalo and Stephen F. Austin.
I think West Virginia will have enough to beat Buffalo, and I like Bob Huggins. I’ll pick Stephen F. Austin to beat Utah. It shocked Virginia Commonwealth University last year, and I think it shocks Utah this year.
The No. 6 seed has seen its fair share of luck against the No. 11 seed over the past decade, but its just 5-3 over the past two seasons. I don’t feel particularly strong about any of the No. 6 seeds this year.
I like SMU and Butler to beat No. 11 seeds UCLA and Texas, and the winners of the two play-in games (No. 11 BYU-Mississippi and Boise State-Dayton) to beat Xavier and Providence.
The No. 7 vs. No. 10 games is quite possibly the hardest to pick. However, the No. 7 seed is 6-2 over the past two years. I’ll take two No. 7 seeds (Wichita State and Michigan State) to win and I’ll counter it with two No. 10 seeds (Ohio State and Davidson to beat Iowa) to pull off the “upset.”
Since 2004, No. 8 seeds are 27-21 and 5-3 the past two years against No. 9 seeds. I’ll take No. 8’s San Diego State and Oregon, and No. 9’s LSU and Purdue to advance.
Those are my picks for the first round.
Enjoy the process, watch the games and have fun.
Good luck to all!