March Madness is upon us, and printer ink companies are about to see a bump in their revenue.
It’s bracket-printing season. And MWCConnection is getting in on the action.
I like to consider myself a bracket connoisseur, as I have filled out hundreds upon hundreds over the past six or seven seasons. I fill out anywhere from 40 to 60 paper brackets and the maximum number of brackets allowed on websites like ESPN or CBS Sports.
So if you’re like me and you’re looking to fill out the best bracket possible, follow these tips:
1. Pick at least one 12-Seed to upset a 5-Seed
Almost every year, a 5-Seed loses to a 12-Seed. It’s basically tradition. In 2017 and ‘18, we had a rare case in which all but one (Minnesota in ’17) of the 5-Seeds came away victorious on opening weekend. Since 1985, there have been 47 instances of a 12 over 5-Seed upset and there have only been FIVE years in which no 12-seeds won (’88, ’00, ’07, ’15, ’18). Which leads me to ask: is it really an upset anymore, or just a certainty?
- This year is chock-full of 12 seeds ready to pick off their opening adversaries. I’d say all four have the potential to win, so I’ll simply rank them by most to least likely:
o #12 New Mexico State vs #5 Auburn
o #12 Murray State vs #5 Marquette
o #12 Oregon vs #5 Wisconsin
o #12 Liberty vs #5 Mississippi State
- New Mexico State is one of the most dominant teams no one knows about, and they can go toe-to-toe with just about anyone. Auburn IS coming off of an SEC Tournament Championship, but NMSU is just as hot.
- Ja Morant vs Markus Howard may be the most talked about matchup of the opening round and for good reason. Both are prolific scorers and great athletes. Marquette is ice-cold coming into this game while Murray State won the OVC Tournament Championship game over Belmont.
- Both Oregon and Liberty will have their work cut out for them against tough opponents, but the Wisconsin-Oregon game is in San Jose, so I give the Ducks the edge to pull off the upset rather than Liberty.
2. A mid-major, yes that includes Gonzaga, won’t win it all
The last time a team that can be considered a mid-major won the championship was in 1966, when Texas Western (an independent at the time) beat Kentucky and shocked the sports world. Since then many teams have come close, Butler’s and Gonzaga’s title game appearance in 2010, 2011, and 2017 being the best examples. Unfortunately for smaller programs, which includes 1-Seed Gonzaga, it always ends up being the same teams who hoist the trophy and cut down the nets.
- As usual, Gonzaga will be picked in many brackets to reach the mountaintop, but history has shown that it has no mercy for mid-majors. The best mid-major schools this season, such as Gonzaga, Wofford, NMSU, Utah St., Nevada, Buffalo, to name a few, will get lots of love to pull off deep runs. But to win it all? Highly unlikely, so when filling out your bracket, look to the teams in power conferences to claim the title.
3. Don’t take every 1-Seed to the Final Four
It’s very rare to see the Final Four feature all four 1-seeds, so rare that it has only happened once since 1979. In 2008, Kansas, Memphis, UCLA, and North Carolina all made it to the semifinals. There have been multiple occurrences of three number ones in the Final Four, but having all four is hard to come by.
- All four #1 seeds are excellent this year, so there’s a chance we could see them all come Final Four time, but it won’t be an easy road. Duke must get through a bracket featuring Michigan State and LSU, Gonzaga has Michigan, Florida State, Texas Tech, and Nevada in their side. Virginia has Tennessee, Purdue, and Villanova to possibly deal with. UNC’s got Kentucky, Houston, Wofford (who have already beaten the Tar Heels once this season), and Kansas in their quadrant. Can all four #1 seeds make it to Minneapolis? Sure. Will they? I wouldn’t bet on it.
4. Go with tradition
Everyone wants the 13-seed mid-major team to go all the way and turn the sports universe on its head, but if we look back at all the champions since the turn of the century, we see a ton of familiar faces: Duke, North Carolina, Connecticut, Kentucky, Kansas, Villanova. Those six teams have combined for thirteen championships in the 21st century. It would be nice to see a Cinderella go all the way, but expect one of the usual suspects.
- Duke is the overwhelming favorite to win it all, and for good reason. Zion is back and doesn’t seem to have skipped a beat. North Carolina is as good as ever, Kentucky can run with anyone, and Kansas, although having a down year, is still Kansas.
5. Bet on blue
Since 1990, 23 of the 29 National Champions have had blue as either their primary or secondary color. This also includes the last five winners and 15 of the 19 teams to have won it this century. Amongst those to not be blue, the most recent was in 2013, when (Vacated) made a massive comeback against Michigan (whose primary color is blue, btw).
- As I stated above: Duke, UNC, Kentucky, and Villanova should be looked at as major championship contenders. Not for their talent, coaching, or strategy, but for their color. Blue teams DOMINATE college basketball. Out of the 19 champions in this century, only four (’00 Michigan State, ’02 Maryland, ’03 Syracuse, ’13 VACATED) champs have anything other than blue as their primary color.
6. Don’t expect another UMBC
No one saw Virginia’s loss to the Retrievers of UMBC coming last year, probably not even UMBC fans. It was a historic outing for the 16-seed, the first of their kind to EVER beat a 1-seed. The all-time record now stands at 1-135. However, I don’t know how soon another program can recreate the dominant magic UMBC displayed last year. The chances of it happening two years in a row must be astronomical. I wouldn’t bet on it this year.
- If I HAD to pick a 16-seed to win this year, I’d have to say Iona, but that’s because the Gaels have had so many March Madness appearances that they have to win eventually, right? Won’t be this year though.
7. Have fun with it
Last March, I filled out 48 paper brackets and around 50 or so virtual brackets That’s less than I normally do. No, I’m not ashamed. It was some of the most fun I ever had. That’s why my most important tip is to simply enjoy the experience. Make a coin flip bracket, make a Which Mascot Would Win In A Fight? Bracket, have your dog or your cat or your gecko or your fish pick teams, throw darts at a bracket, mix it up and get crazy. March Madness is a magical time of Cinderellas and buzzer-beaters. Join a bracket challenge, enter your work bracket pool, or just follow along at home. It’s the most wonderful time of the year!
8. Join the MWCConnection March Madness Pool!
Put it all into practice right here. Here is the link to our group. Be sure to join in on the fun. To raise the stakes a bit, the winner has the option to write a post of their choosing or else pick a topic for a post that we have to write about. Even though now everyone can be a winner, it’s still a fun time for bragging rights and following along with others.
What’s your strategy for filling out a perfect bracket? Let us know in the comments below!