College Sports

Four helpful tips when picking your NCAA Tournament bracket

Iowa State celebrates Big 12 Tournament championship

Iowa State celebrates the Big 12 men's basketball tournament championship after defeating Kansas 78-66 at the Sprint Center on Saturday, March 16, 2019, in Kansas City.
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Iowa State celebrates the Big 12 men's basketball tournament championship after defeating Kansas 78-66 at the Sprint Center on Saturday, March 16, 2019, in Kansas City.

Winning the office NCAA Tournament pool is more than just about the money, right? The cash is nice, but having bragging rights over your co-workers for an entire year is a nice perk. It’s even better if you win a pool with family members.

Of course, winning is easier said than done. Sometimes it helps to get a bit of advice.

You’re in luck. Here are a four tips from national basketball experts around the country as March Madness prepares to get underway:

The No. 2 seeds and the Sweet 16: Mike Rutherford of SB Nation notes that In 21 of the last 22 years at least one No. 2 seed has failed to reach the Sweet 16. Last year two of them (North Carolina and Cincinnati) didn’t make it out of the first weekend. The teams seeded second this year are Michigan, Michigan State, Tennessee and Kentucky.

One region usually has an unexpected champion: While upsets by lower-seeded teams are one of the charming things of the NCAA Tournament, it’s rare to see one win the national championship. Bill Bender of The Sporting News noted that 82.4 percent of the championship-game teams (including all eight over the last four years) were seeded No. 3 or higher. He also said No. 1 and No. 2 seeds have accounted for 61 percent of the Final Four appearances since 1984-85. However, the last six tournaments have seen three No. 7 seeds (Connecticut in 2014, Michigan State in 2015, South Carolina in 2017), a No. 9 (Wichita State in 2013), a No. 10 (Syracuse in 2016) and a No. 11 (Loyola-Chicago last year) make the Final Four. All lost before the title game except Connecticut, which won the national championship.

Don’t overestimate the No. 8 seeds: Zach Kram of The Ringer pointed out that teams seeded eighth have won just 57 percent of their first-round games since 2002. Whichever team wins games between No. 8-9 seeds rarely advances far because next up is a No. 1 seed. Since 2002, Kram reported, a No. 8 or No. 9 team has advanced to the Sweet 16 just 15 percent of the time since 2002.

Check out those No. 12 seeds: Teams seeded 12th have found success that belies their place in the bracket through the years. In 29 of the last 34 years, a No. 12 seed has won at least one first-round game, per the NCAA. One trendy pick is Murray State, which faces Marquette. The other No. 12 seeds: Oregon (which plays Wisconsin), Liberty (which plays Mississippi State) and New Mexico State (which plays Auburn).

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From covering the World Series to the World Cup, Pete has done a little bit of everything since joining The Star in 1997. He writes about baseball and has a quirky blog that augments The Star’s coverage of area teams.
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