We are just four days away from Selection Sunday when the NCAA seeding committee releases the field for the 2011 NCAA basketball tournament. The field this year has been expanded to 68 with the advent of a mini First Four Tourney where eight teams compete for the last four spots, but that really doesn’t make the seeding committee’s job any easier. Whatever happens Sunday is sure to leave some bubble teams jumping for joy and others crushed with disappointment (and heading to the NIT tournament).
Picking a Winning NCAA Tournament Bracket
The odds of correctly picking all 66 games in the Big Dance are astronomical to say the least, but if you do your research, follow a thought-out strategy, and get a few lucky bounces you could get a bracket where you pick 70-75% of the games and that would probably put you way ahead of the competition in your office pool and likely win you a buck or two.
Bracket Picking Strategies
Don’t be afraid to pick a 3rd or 4th seed to go all the way. If you have done your research and really believe a team is underrated or getting back some important players from injury or just plain peaking at the right time, go with your gut. No. 1 seeds do not always win the tournament. The history of the NCAA tournament offers many examples of mid-high seeds making it to the finals.
Pick some upsets in the first couple of rounds. Most people who pick brackets do not really do in-depth research, and the large majority will pick almost all of the favorites to advance in the first round. Sharp handicappers know it almost never works out that way, and picking at least a few 12 and 13 seed upsets is the way to go (but you don’t want to take any No. 16 seeds against the No. 1 seeds as it has never happened in the men’s basketball tournament).
Obviously filling out multiple brackets increases your chances, but taking a systematic approach in how you fill out your brackets can pay off. One method is to pick the two teams you like to meet in the Championship Game on April 4th, and fill out 8 or 12 (or more) brackets with several likely variations of who the two top teams will defeat on the road to the finals (ie vary who beats who before they meet your top teams).
2011 March Madness Predictions
The Big 12 is an underrated conference this year and I look for both Kansas and Texas to make deep runs this year. Ohio State is solid and has got all the pieces in place, but I am not sold on the heart of this team quite yet. BYU is also very good team and if Jimmer Fredette gets hot they can beat anybody anywhere, but the loss of their big man Brandon Davies will hurt a lot in the paint.
San Diego State, Duke and Notre Dame also deserve mention as possible championship contenders, as do Pittsburgh, North Carolina and Florida as slightly longer shots. The 2011 version of March Madness seems to be a tad more open than in some past years, with no one team really appearing dominant, which could lead to another Cinderella showing up in the semifinals or finals…teams like Arizona, Xavier, Missouri or Butler are all reasonable picks as have a shot if they get hot.
For more on the 2010-2011 college basketball season and the NCAA basketball tournament see:
2011 NCAA Basketball Tournament Schedule
2011 NCAA Basketball Tournament Brackets – March Madness Bracket Predictions and Tips
(2) Texas Longhorns Looking For No. 1 Seed in NCAA Tournament