It’s that time of the year! The time where we all obsess over creating the perfect bracket, create dozens of slightly different brackets, and lose hours (or days) of sleep over impending tournament excitement.
Since I’m a huge March Madness fan and bracket-obsessed lunatic, I decided to go ahead and help you out with some of my biggest DO’s and DON’Ts for filling out your perfect bracket!
DO: Recognize any teams going into the tournament “hot”
It helps tremendously if you have watched (or at least kept up with) the conference tournaments. Are there any teams who found a spark late in the season and carried that momentum all the way to a conference title? Those are the teams you want to keep an eye out for. They may not go and make a national title run, but they have the ability to pull an upset or two. Keep your eyes open for the red-hot squad; they will be dangerous in this tournament.
DON’T: Pick your entire bracket based off of seeding
This is the sign of a true bracket-bonehead. Don’t be that guy (or gal) who has your entire bracket full of high seeds over low seeds, and you do not want to be that person with an all one-seed Final Four. There has only been one occurrence within the last 34 years of an all one-seed Final Four, and that was in 2008. Seeding is not an exact science so you will not want to evaluate a team based on seeding alone. (See: Louisville)
DO: Take AT LEAST 2 surprising upsets in the first round
Newsflash: You will not feel comfortable taking these risks on your perfect bracket, but those huge 12-5 upsets or 13-4 upsets happen every single year. Those are the games you watch in total disgust as some random no-name school takes down a school you had going to the Sweet 16. Do yourself a favor and take the risk on a few low seed teams recording the upset in the opening round. You may be wrong, but if you are right you will look like a genius.
DON’T: Pick a team based off of their past success, uniforms, mascot, etc.
Take a team like 6th seeded University of North Carolina for example. They are the almighty Tarheels, MJ the GOAT went there, and they are coached by Roy Williams! It is impossible for them to have an early exit from the tournament, right? Wrong. Forget about their historic reputation and focus on this year only. There is a huge difference between having a great program and having a great season. Also, don’t be that uninformed weirdo who picks a team because “Their uniforms are nice”, or “The mascot is cool”. That will get you nowhere.
DO: Pick a Cinderella team to make a deep run
It happens almost every year, when a low seed team that no one expected to make it out of the opening round makes it to the Final Four or the Elite 8. It is that type of glorified unpredictability that gives March Madness its lure. Stay one step ahead of everyone and make sure you find a team seeded five or above that has the potential to make at least an Elite 8 appearance.
DON’T: Impulsively go all-in with your favorite team
This may be the BIGGEST no-no on the entire list, but we all do it. Back in 2012 I witnessed the Florida State Seminoles, my favorite team at the time, go on a run and win the ACC Tournament. I was so impressed and biased that I chose them to go on a streak and win it all. Well, they lost in the round of 32 and shattered my heart and my bracket. Unless you truly believe that your school has the skills to make a deep run, you will have to be honest on your bracket and cut them off at the right time. It will be hard, but I promise your school will forgive you.
DO: Your homework
If you are truly dedicated to having an exquisite bracket, it will take some time. Friends and loved ones may become concerned with your obsessive research, but remind them that it is for a good cause. Understand that the NCAA tournament is all about match-ups and little about seeding. If you do your homework and see that a lower seed excels at something a higher seed struggles a great deal with, expose that mismatch in your bracket. Knowing the field of 64 well gives you a huge competitive advantage over those who blindly try and pick a bracket.
DON’T: Ignore your gut
Do yourself a favor and do not ignore your gut feeling in this tournament. If you have done your research and you possess no bias towards the game, trust yourself enough to make the pick you are comfortable with. Also, do not let “Bracketology experts” on television intimidate you. Last I checked those experts have the exact same number of perfect brackets as you do. If you have a feeling about a game, do not let anyone talk you out of it. Remember: it is okay to be wrong. Heck, I am wrong every day. But it is an awful feeling of regret to know that you could have been right and chose to ignore your instincts instead.
Those are some of my key DO’s and DON’Ts to fill out your perfect bracket. It is arguably the most stressful part of a sports fan’s entire year, but going into it prepared is half of the battle.
Good luck to all of you March Madness participants, and if you have any other key DO’s or DON’Ts, make sure to leave a comment with them below!