Well, you've come to the right place, my friends. You're talking to the guy who won a $50 pool his freshman year of high school (and has yet to win it again since). But I would ignore this fact, because I have put together a list that ensures perfection. We always hear about how nobody's perfect and I'm hear to tell you that that's a load of crap. After witnessing Kansas go down to Northern Iowa last season, completely devastating my bracket, myself and a few others (mainly Kyle and I) decided to go to town on what wasn't gelling with our NCAA tournament predictions. After reviewing these regulations again recently, I couldn't find much else that I would change. So basically, it comes down to this: do I want to show you this list? Hmmm....ah, what the hell.
But first, let me share my thoughts on a few pressing Wisconsin sports' subjects.
Zack Greinke. Thanks for deciding that playing pick-up basketball is more important than helping out a franchise that hasn't had a lick of success and is making possibly their last playoff push for quite sometime. Appreciate it. Get well soon...UW-Milwaukee. They made a valiant effort to make it to the big show, but not many people expected them to defeat Butler, even on their home court, to earn an automatic bid. Therefore, their loss isn't too disappointing, but it would've been cool to see...Marquette. Big win yesterday. They should be locked into the tourney now with their victory over Providence. Beating West Virginia tonight would be the icing on the cake, and I think it's very do-able...Wisconsin. You gave up 14-15 shooting from three. You got killed. Not really much you can do about that. Let's hope for a finals appearance in the Big Ten tournament, and then let's hope that the opponent isn't Ohio State. Dear Lord they're good...okay, back to business.
The March Madness Manifesto (in no particular order):
1) Stick with your gut. Don't second guess.
I'm sure you've heard your college/high school professor say that it's not a good idea to change your answer unless you're really, really sure. Same goes for picking your winners. Trust yourself, even if you usually don't.
2) Don't ride the hot team. Don't pick the cold team.
There's always one or two teams that are red-hot heading into the tournament. Naturally, you pick them. And naturally, they go out in the sweet 16. Just be careful and look at the entire body of work of a team. On the other end of the spectrum, if you're cold, you're cold. By this time of the year, team's should have figured it out. If they haven't, it's not a good sign. Avoid them.
3) Always pick at least one 12 over 5 seed upset.
Check this out. A 12 seed has defeated a 5 seed at least once in 21 of the past 23 years. Crazy. Another little known fact is that 5-12 upsets occur more often than 6-11 upsets. In other words, look at all of the 5 seed vs 12 seed match-ups, make notes of who the weakest 5 is and who the strongest 12 is and go from there.
4) Have the team you root for go a round shorter than you think they will.
Let's face it. We watch our favorite teams (Wisconsin, Marquette and UWM in many of our cases) all year long and see what they are capable of. Normally, we think they're capable of way too much. Fill out your bracket, see how far you have your favorite teams going, and push them back a round.
5) Don't look into strength of schedule too much.
Case in point: the Big East. Ever since the conference expanded in 2005, a National Champion hasn't emerged from the Big East. They beat each other up too much during the course of the regular season. I'm not saying a team can't come out of this conference and win it all...I'm just saying that the conference a team plays in shouldn't be overblown when it comes to making your selections.
6) Don't look into location of game too much.
I'm stressing the 'too much' part on this one. If you are really having difficulty choosing between two teams and one of them is playing in their backyard, then sure, go ahead and pick that team. But don't completely base your pick off of who is closer to home. It doesn't make that much of a difference.
7) How well a player is projected to do in the NBA won't necessarily translate into success for the player's team (This depends on the supporting cast). A Good Team > 1 or 2 very talented players.
Pretty self-explanatory, I'd say. See: Any John Calipari-coached team.
8) In close match-ups, pay close attention to team free throw percentage.
See: Any John Calipari-coached team.
9) The coach can play a role in the team's success, but in the end the team is more important.
I know. This seems pretty evident. Obviously, coaches like Tom Izzo and Coach K are going to get the most out of their players, but it's up to the players to execute the game plan.
10) Always pick a 7/10 seed to beat a 2 seed in the 2nd round.
This has happened 9 of the past 10 years. So do it. Same strategy as the 5-12 rule applies here.
11) Listen to Jay Bilas.
The man is a college basketball encyclopedia. Cornell in the sweet 16? Ha. Oh wait...
12) Teams play better when they have a chance to play close to home later on in the tournament.
The past two years, Michigan State (Detroit) and Butler (Indianapolis) have willed themselves through the tournament to play extremely close to home in the Final Four. However, once they get there, see rule #6.
13) Ride the team with the clutch player for awhile.
There are always those certain guys who just get the job done when the going gets tough and the pressure mounts. Find out who these players play for, and then give this team an automatic pass through the first round or two because there's no way they're going home early.
A few more tidbits...Coach K and Coach Izzo are very good on the second game. In other words, if they reach the Sweet 16 and win, they are more than likely going to win in the Elite 8. It's just how it is...Avoid picking Vandy and Clemson. History says so...Avoid picking team's you haven't heard of late in the tournament. Butler kind of defies that idea but usually, you're going to see the big name schools dancing until midnight...Experience > Youth. See: Any John Calipari coached team.
Happy bracket filling out! You're welcome in advance for winning your office pool.