It’s every sports fan’s favorite time of year- it’s March, and it’s madness. The chaos and atmosphere surrounding College Basketball and its championship tournament are unparalleled in the sports world and beyond.
Because of the massive amount of games, crazy endings, and unpredictable Cinderella-stories, filling out a March Madness bracket has become commonplace for every office and friend group. If you don’t follow college basketball, or have just slacked watching games this season, this is the ultimate guide to avoid embarrassment in your office pool and potentially bring home the championship and bragging rights.
Kentucky Wildcats – What Should You Do?
Let’s start with the story-line a deaf man has even heard — the Kentucky Wildcats. Their quest for perfection will be affirmed or denied in the upcoming weeks. Being the ultimate favorites, should you go with them in your bracket? Well yes, and no. Kentucky is the team to go with due to their utter dominance of college basketball this year and sheer-talent. That being said, if your entire office is going with the Wildcats, going with a less-popular, but still viable, option could help you bring home the bacon.
If Kentucky doesn’t hold up under the pressure, then selecting a different team could pay off. Teams like Arizona, Wisconsin, or Duke are still heavy favorites, but being picked a lot less. Almost half of all ESPN brackets have UK as their champion. Selecting Kentucky is a uniform pick, which will require you to out-pick your opponents in the rest of your bracket, if you decide to stick with the 34-0 SEC Champions. If winning is the ultimate-goal, than avoid Kentucky unless you’re positive they can complete perfection. If you’re just aiming to not be in last place, Kentucky should be your champion without a thought about it.
David vs Goliath – The Art of the Sleeper
March Madness is just as much about “Davids” as it is about “Goliaths” like Kentucky. There will be a double-digit seed advancing into the later rounds, you just have to find out which one. Two huge sleepers on my board are Eastern Washington and Stephen F. Austin. Eastern Washington shoots the three-ball at an unbelievable rate, and has the leading scorer in college basketball in Tyler Harvey (22.9 PPG). SF Austin is tremendous on the glass, and retained three starters from last year’s team that upset five-seed VCU. Both teams play relatively over-seeded teams that could easily be upset.
One team I feel could go deep in the tourney is Iowa State. They are gritty and score the ball at an incredibly efficient rate, Georges Niang is a matchup-nightmare down low and they are resilient as hell-coming back to win the last five times they have been down ten or more points. The Cyclones could certainly stir up a storm this March.
The NCAA tournament is hectic and unpredictable – but it isn’t a complete free-for-all. Only once has a Final Four consisted of the four one-seeds, so be a little more experimental than that. But don’t go choosing a 16-seed over a one-seed, as a one-seed has never lost to a 16 in the history of the tournament. Select a handful of sleepers and upsets, but also choose a solid team in each region that has a valid chance of advancing far to be in your Final Four. Think about it like this- if you put a nine-seed in your Final Four, and they lose in the first round, you lose all the points you had allocated towards them winning the games they were supposed to win. An early exit of one, let alone two or three, of your Final Four teams could prove fatal to your bracket. Make sure the teams you have going deep in the tournament actually get past the second round.
Be crazy (it is March Madness), but remember to be conservative too. No, Hampton isn’t going to beat Kentucky, even if their Coach does have Jesus on speed-dial. No, the higher seed isn’t going to win every matchup in the tournament, so pick some sleepers! There is a guarantee of at least eight upsets in the first round, so pick around five.
Whether you’re streaming the games on your phone or playing hookie at your local sports bar, remember to enjoy March Madness, even if your bracket folds up like a broken beach chair. Don’t fret if some of the teams you thought could go deep get bounced earlier – it’s literally happening to every single participant in your pool. If the 1-in-9.2 quintillion odds don’t convince you, hopefully I can – you will not have a perfect bracket. Get some sleeper-picks correct, and get at least two of the four final four teams right, and you’ll find yourself throwing your awesome bracketology-skills in your coworkers’ faces for months on end.