March Madness is back!
If you need a bracket, click here.
In the meantime, for the next three weeks, college basketball fans all across the country will be filling out their brackets and hoping they don’t go bust. It’s one of the most enthralling traditions in sport.
While there’s no wrong way to fill out your bracket, there are some trends that seem to happen year after year and surprise us all the same.
I’ve gone through the past 25 years of bracket data with a fine-toothed comb to answer these questions and more in order to help bring you a few tips while filling out your bracket.
Take a look at our bracket tips below.
No. 12 vs. No. 5 upsets are a always discussed, but don’t go too crazy with them.
The No. 12 vs. No 5 upset is always discussed at length in the build up to the first weekend of March Madness, and rightfully so — in 12 of the past 25 years, at least two No. 12 teams had an upset in the first round. Additionally, the No. 12 vs. No. 5 upset is a fairly safe one to make, as in most cases, the eventual winner will be set to lose to the top seed in the region in the Sweet 16.
In the past 100 No. 12 vs. No. 5 matchups, the lower seed has prevailed 38 times. Projecting that number out into this year, you’re probably safe to pick one or two upsets in this matchup if you think you found the right team.
One helpful hint — sometimes the 12-seed won’t even be the underdog. Check Las Vegas odds on these matchups and you might find the lower seed favored, usually a pretty good signal of upset potential.
There’s almost always a No. 2/3/4 seed upset in the first round.
While the 12-5 upsets usually get the most press, in 22 of the past 25 years a team seeded 2-4 has also fallen in the first round to their lower seeded counterpart. In 13 of the past 25 years, it’s happened at least twice.
The most difficult aspect of picking these upsets is finding the right team — with 12 teams seeded 13-15, you really have to hit the bullseye in order to nail the Cinderella team. That said, if you call the next Florida Gulf Coast trip to the Final Four, you get bragging rights in your league for life — a fair trade-off of risk and reward in my humble opinion.
You’ll find the right team with a combination of feel and luck — look for the champion of a smaller conference that has uniforms you like and are going against a team you hate in the first round. It’s fun to root for!
If you want to play these safe, that’s understandable, and might the be more logical move in terms of coming out on top of your league. But don’t be shocked to see your favorite No. 3 team toppled in the first round.
Don’t be too shy about putting a double-digit team through to the Sweet 16.
Another tip toward filling out your bracket that might make you pull back a bit at first — don’t be afraid to put a double-digit seed through to the Sweet 16. Just twice in the past 25 years have all the teams that advanced to the second weekend of the tournament been seeded ninth or higher.
In fact, in that time, the tournament has averaged a little over two teams seeded No. 10 or lower making it past the first two rounds. Last year, No. 10 Xavier took their impressive run all the way to the Elite Eight, giving basketball fans a preview of what was to come in 2018.
If there’s a spicy team seeded 10th or 11th that you have been watching this year, have faith in them, especially if they have players and coaches with tournament experience, or are sporting a young crop of players that are growing into their own.