Keys to Bracket Domination

13 Mar


by Chris McCoy

As you ponder over who to pick in your bracket this NCAA Tournament, let me offer you a few tips so that you can at least look like you know what you’re talking about. Oh – and after you win you’re office pool please make all checks payable to Chris McCoy…

1. Watch all the conference championship games you can. I know you’re like now you tell me! Yeah, I can’t have you beating me in our bracket challenge now! Lol. The more you’ve seen a team, the better feel you have for how good they are/can be, and for many small school, their conference tourney may be the first time you get to see them all year. How does that team look like versus the best competition in their own conferences? What types of match ups were they able to exploit in those games? What are their glaring weaknesses? Do your homework, be prepared for class.

2. Who’s hot? Who’s not? Teams that stumble into the tournament, usually aren’t the smartest picks past an easier opponent. While it’s about the total body of work, take a look at how a team performed in their last 10 regular season games. Example: Villanova is NOT HOT, this was a top-10 team for the majority of the season, but faltered down the stretch; not only losing it’s first round Big East Tournament game to a South Florida squad that only won THREE conference games, but losing six of its last ten regular season games, falling to five of the seven tournament teams they played. Hot teams, are the ones to watch and bet on – they’re peaking at the right time. I’m not talking about getting on a roll and winning your conference tournament, we’re still talking about the last ten regular season games. Example: St. John’s won 8 of their last 10 regular season games, and the game before that they beat Duke at home.

3. Look at the team’s record away from home – that’s away games and neutral games, with a special emphasis on high quality opponents at neutral sites. Most neutral site games occur at the beginning of the season though, so how is the team playing now versus how they played then? Perfect example: UConn. UConn started the season hot, winning the Maui Invitational, taking out Missouri Valley regular season runner up Wichita State, then #2 Michigan State, and then #9 Kentucky in the championship game; and ended the season winning five games in five days to win the nations’ toughest conference tourney. In other words, watch for the Huskies *FREEBIE*.

4. Great coaches can be worth up to 1-1.5 wins. Case in point, I have a Tom Izzo Rule:  however far u think Michigan State will go based off talent, add a win. Big time coaches, help players peak in big time games.

12-seed Cornell defeated 5-seed Wisconsin last year and went on to the Sweet 16

5. Watch for the hook. I think we all know about the 5/12 upset special. Every year since 1989, at least one 12-seed has defeated a 5-seed. Last year it happened three times, and the only 5-seed to win it’s first round game, Purdue, won by only five points. Teams that dominated their conference, versus teams that were middle of the pack teams in bigger conference are a good bet. This year’s Utah State team fits that mold: they’re 30-3 overall with a 15-1 conference record and playing a schziophrenic Kansas State team.
Download Watch for the Hook by Cool Breeze feat. The Dungeon Family

6. Who’s NOT playing? Who’s injured or suspended? It makes a big difference if key components are missing. How will BYU perform without Brandon Davies? St. John’s without DJ Kennedy? Will Chris Wright be effective in his return for Georgetown? Does Kyrie Irving return for Duke? Just something to think about.

7. Pick at least one 1-seed to get upset. Not in the first round though, no 16-seed has ever beat  a 1-seed. Don’t pick all four 1-seeds to make it to the Final Four either: 2008 was the only year that all four 1-seeds made the Final Four… don’t count on it!

8. Go against the grain. Listening to these “experts” will not win you your pool. Most of these guys don’t know it all, many haven’t even seen all of these teams play enough to make a well informed prediction. You have to go against the grain to gain points sometimes. If you pick all the favorites, you won’t gain any ground on anyone. Pick two teams to go to the Sweet 16 that not many people have! Remember, you get more points for the later wins, not the earlier ones.

UConn's Kemba Walker was the MVP of the 2008 McDonald's All-American Game

9. The stars will shine. Stars perform the brightest under the bright lights – Unless your name’s LeBron James, but that’s another conversation for another time. Talent AND teamwork usually prevails, and the top teams usually have the top talent.

Matter fact, every NCAA Champion since 1979, except Maryland in 2002, has had at least one McDonald’s All American. That’s saying a lot since the first class of McDonald’s All Americans was in 1977 and freshman didn’t play much 30+ years ago. So if you’re going to use this stat to pick your champ, you might not want to pick these top teams as they have zero McDonald’s All Americans: Purdue, Notre Dame and San Diego State. On the other end of the spectrum North Carolina and Duke both have five.

10. If in doubt pick the higher seed in the first round. Since the inception of the 64-team tournament in 1985, each seed pairing has played a total of 104 first-round games.

No. 1 seed – beaten the No. 16 seed all 104 times (100 percent)
No. 2 seed – beaten the No. 15 seed 100 times (96 percent)
No. 3 seed – beaten the No. 14 seed 88 times (85 percent)
No. 4 seed – beaten the No. 13 seed 85 times (82 percent)
No. 5 seed – beaten the No. 12 seed 69 times (66 percent)
No. 6 seed – beaten the No. 11 seed 71 times (68 percent)
No. 7 seed – beaten the No. 10 seed 62 times (60 percent)
No. 8 seed – beaten the No. 9 seed 48 times (46 percent)

The only true coin flip is the 8/9 match up; doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pick a 7 over a 10 or an 11 over a 6, when in doubt though, roll with the higher seeded team.

11. Look at matchups. Had to give you 11 in 2011, so last but not least, look at the match ups. Many smaller conference teams don’t have the bigs to match up with the likes of a Texas or Duke, but have good guard play, which is important in the tournament. Is a high scoring team facing a suspect defense? Does the team use a pesky defensive scheme that most teams haven’t matched up against this season? You get the point, look for mismatches, you’ll go far.


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