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March Madness: A Guide to Filling Out Winning Brackets

What's up RotoBallers! March Madness is officially here, and RotoBaller will be bringing you a full breakdown on the NCAA tournament.

I'm here to give you a tournament strategy guide and important things to know before filling out your brackets. Before we get into the gist of the article, two major notes on the upcoming NCAA tournament.

Firstly, when people say "I had..." Just stop right there. Most people don’t care who you picked or where you had so and so team going.

Second, it's not called March Madness, rather the NCAA tournament. March Madness alludes to the entire month of March from rivalry week to championship week, to the NCAA Tournament itself. Don’t be that person to ask, 'Who do you have winning March Madness?' If you're wondering why this article is titled March Madness and not NCAA Tournament, that's because when googling tournament picks, my article wouldn't pop up on searches as too many people would put 'March Madness' and not 'NCAA Tournament' in the search field.

Editor's Note: Be sure to check out the rest of our NCAA Tournament articles and analysis, including a guide on how to fill out your brackets. Read our March Madness picks, sleepers, busts and predictions for the EastWestSouth and Midwest regions.


A Checklist Before Filling Out Your Bracket

  • Vegas knows more than us. Last year, No. 10 Butler was a one-point favorite over No. 7 Arkansas and No. 11 Loyola-Chicago was only a one-point dog against No. 6 Miami. Needless to say, Butler and Loyola-Chicago both won. This year, the line that stands out to me is No. 12 Oregon being a one-point favorite over No. 5 Wisconsin.
  • Don't overvalue seeds. The committee makes a ton of mistakes when handing out seeds (mentioned above). Cover the seeds and go matchup-by-matchup and choose who you think the better team is.
  • Don't get cute picking a No. 16 over a No. 1. Yes, UMBC beat Virginia last year, but Jay Bilas called that a "lightning strike."
  • Since the NCAA expanded the field from 65 to 68 teams in 2011, one of the First Four teams (not including teams from the lower-tiered conferences) have went on to win their First Round matchup. Their records are 14-16 once in the field of 64. Pretty remarkable. Last year after winning their play-in game, No. 11 Syracuse beat No. 6 TCU and then shocked No. 3 Michigan State before losing to Duke in the Sweet 16. This year those match-ups are Belmont vs. Temple and Arizona State vs. St. John's.
  • Teams are entirely different come March than they were in December. Weigh recent games more than a game in December. Also, road games are more valuable than home games. It's one thing to play in front of your raucous home crowd than in a hostile environment.
  • Be contrarian. Don't pick the popular teams that everybody else will. If you pick a team that not many other people have to either win the championship or make the Final Four and they do it, then you'll be one of the only people to get those points giving yourself a major advantage.
  • And finally, the most important rule, DO NOT TINKER! The more you second-guess yourself, the more you'll regret it.


Does Conference Tournament Success Equal NCAA Tournament Success? posed this question three years ago. They looked at data dating back from 1985. It's complicated and if you really care to find out the process and how they came to their conclusion, you can read it here. Here is the main point of their findings,

"This analysis does serve as a warning against putting too much emphasis on the conference tournament relative to a team’s entire body of work, especially when it comes to picking unexpectedly hot conference tournament teams to go further than you’d otherwise predict for teams with their résumés."

Conference tournaments are just another cash grab for the schools.


What's the Magic to Winning It All?

  • A veteran team. Look at the last three champions; Villanova, North Carolina, and Villanova again. Those teams had seniors who had been in plenty of big games before and knew how to get it done in the big moments.
  • A point guard that gets hot can carry a team deep into the tournament, even winning it all. Connecticut won two championships like that with Kemba Walker in 2011 and Shabazz Napier in 2014. Steph Curry carried Davidson to within one shot of the Final Four in 2008.
  • A team that has a solid offense, but more importantly one that can get stops when it needs to.


Teams Who Can Win It All

Virginia, Duke, North Carolina, Michigan, Michigan State, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Gonzaga. I think those eight teams are far and above all the other teams.

If you're looking at No. 3 Texas Tech or No. 3 Houston to make a deep run, here's a very interesting stat I heard; top three seeds that were unranked before the season have made the Final Four just two times out of 53 since the field expanded in 1986 (UConn in 2011 and Michigan in 2017).


Good luck to all of you RotoBallers!

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