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August 20, 2019

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Boosting your brackets: Tips for a successful tourney run

march madness

Gary Landers

No easy task: Ed Pickney and Villanova won the title as an eight seed in 1985.

    • Don’t go overboard with underdogs

      A few higher-seeded teams (that is, higher-numbered seeds) are going to advance past the first round. Don’t give away bracket points by picking the long shots to go much further than that—history says it won’t happen. Out of the 40 teams to make the Elite Eight over the last five years, only four of them were seeded sixth or higher.

    • Coaching matters, experience doesn’t.

      Connecticut’s run to the 2011 title illustrates how overrated experience can be when evaluating teams. The Huskies had five freshmen and one senior in their rotation. Youth hardly matters with a coach like Jim Calhoun, who has won 51 career NCAA Tournament games, on the bench.

    • Be selective when analyzing statistics

      Not all basketball statistics are created equal. In fact, the majority of popular team statistics are misleading. It makes no difference if one team averages more points than another. Most of the time, that only means one team plays a faster tempo and gets more possessions than the other. Seek out tempo-free statistics online at websites like and, instead of traditional numbers.

    • Drown out the so-called experts.

      There’s a reason someone totally anonymous typically ends up with the nation’s best bracket. It’s the randomness of a one-and-done competition like the NCAA Tournament. Anyone is as likely to ace the bracket as Dick Vitale and Jay Bilas. The talking heads are an acceptable source for information on the teams, but blindly copying their picks defeats the purpose—and usually won’t yield the desired results, anyway.

    • Stick with an established power to win it all.

      College basketball’s blue-blood programs rule the tournament. Connecticut, North Carolina, Duke and Kansas have won six of the last eight national championships. The other two went to Florida, which won back-to-back titles in 2006 and 2007 with a team that was far-and-away the best in the country.

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