The odds of filling out a perfect bracket are one in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808. However, with these incredible insights and tips, we’re going to reduce those odds to roughly one in 9 quintillion. I know what you’re thinking… “I have better odds of winning Power Ball” but please consider that completing a bracket and closely following it will actually give you something to do at work. So let’s get to it….
TOP SEED TIDBITS
Top seeded teams are no “sure thing” these days.
Only once, have all four No. 1 seeds advanced to the Final Four. In fact, we’d strongly recommend not picking more than two No. 1 seeds to reach your Final Four. Only five times in the past 39 years have more than two No. 1’s reached the Final Four so play the odds.
The track records for the No. 2 seeds has been even shakier. Only once in the past 21 years have all four No. 2 seeds reached the Sweet Sixteen. The translation is that often the 7/10 first round winner can give weaker No. 2 seeds a real run for their money. This year, that could be a team like Cincinnati. They are a great defensive squad but a weak conference could hurt the team as they attempt a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.
If you are one that roots for upsets then take solace in the fact that in each of the last five years, a team seeded 7th or higher has reached the Final Four. That means a team like Loyola-Chicago or Butler may be able to bust some brackets this year, but be very careful, the lowest seed to ever win the NCAA Tournament was the No. 8 seeded Villanova in 1985.
The dance has not been so sweet for the defending champions. Since Florida’s repeat win in 2007, no defending champion has even gotten past the Sweet 16. Last year, Nova was bounced in the second round…. So advance the North Carolina Tar Heels at your own risk.
FIRST ROUND TIDBITS
Never has a No. 16 seed beaten a No. 1 seed, however, there have been some close calls with 2 one-point games, a two-point game, and an overtime game in the 16 vs 1 matchup. Moreover, a 16-seed has led the 1-seed at halftime in three of the last four tournaments. Could this be the year? I’m looking at you Kansas.
Only eight times in 33 years has a No. 2 seed lost to a No. 15 seed, but half of those losses have come in the past six years. The most recent was Middle Tennessee in 2016 as they ended Michigan State’s hopes. If you’re willing to reach for it, Georgia State might “Cinderella” Cincinnati in the South Region.
No. 14 seeds have an all-time win percent of 16%, but surprisingly last year marked the first time since 2012 that a 14-seed failed to win at least one game. Our best bets for a 14 seed this year would be either SFA or Wright State.
At least one No. 13 seed has beaten a No. 4 seed in 23 of 33 years. With their incredibly slow offensive game, the College of Charleston probably has the best chance against an undersized Auburn team. Also, look to the chaotic Marshall offense that averages 14 seconds per possession, which could shock the Shockers.
When it comes to picking upsets in the bracket, the first place people often look is often at the 5-12 matchups, and understandably so. At least one No. 12 seed has beaten a 5-seed in 29 of the past 33 years, although no 5-seeded team has ever won a championship. We could easily make a case for all the 12s winning but your best bets are probably the sharp-shooting Davidson Wildcats and the suffocating defense of New Mexico State in a low scoring affair with Clemson.
Teams seeded 11 have won at least three out of four meetings with #6 seeds in consecutive years, for the first time ever. We see that trend continuing as this may be the year of the 11 seeds. Loyola-Chicago is everyone’s darling pick, but don’t count out the red-hot San Diego State Aztecs or the play-in teams who all have favorable match-ups. Speaking of the play-in teams, one team from the First Four has advanced to the second round each year, since its inception in 2011. Interestingly, in six of the seven years, it was the team that won Wednesday’s non-16-seed game…. That would be either ASU or Syracuse.
Four times in the past five years, No. 7 seeds have won three of the four matchups over No. 10 seeds. This could be the year of the No. 10 seeded teams as victories in Round 1 could hardly be considered upsets over their given opponents. Butler is actually favored and the remaining teams are 3-point or less underdogs. Oklahoma has a lot to prove based on all the backlash resulting from them being accepted into the tournament. Texas has the size and projected Top-5 draft pick, Mo Bamba, while UNR lost their starting point guard in February. No team has been more Jekyll & Hyde than Providence beating Xavier twice but then losing some real head scratchers as well.
This region is a difficult one to predict. They have the best defensive team in the nation as the No. 1 seed (Virginia), the second-ranked defense in the nation as the No. 2 seed (Cincinnati), and two of the most explosive and talented teams in the nation, Arizona and Kentucky, that seem to be peaking at the right time. The South is our nomination for the 2018 bracket-busting region. There are many evenly matched teams in the first round games, including two of the nation’s hottest teams facing each other (Kentucky and Davidson). Add to that some of the nation’s best shooting teams including Creighton, Davidson, and Loyola-Chicago and you see the potential for bracket chaos. Virginia began the season unranked and ends as a No. 1 seed. That’s a bad omen for the Cavaliers since the previous 10 teams to fit that profile never reached the Final Four (and only three making the Elite Eight). Speaking of bad omens, the past six times Cinncy has been a No. 4 seed or better, they didn’t even make it out of the second round.
Picks: Tennessee and Arizona
Cinderellas: Texas, Loyola-Chicago, Davidson
The West Region ranks as our weakest in this year’s tournament. Being the weakest overall isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it might well result in some very exciting games. Xavier, which earned their first No. 1 in school history, are probably the weakest of all the 1-seeds. It certainly won’t be an easy run for the X-men as Gonzaga looms in the Sweet 16. This region has an interesting mix of teams including the hottest team in the nation (Michigan), last year’s champion (North Carolina), and one of the best players that you’ve probably never heard of, South Dakota State’s Mike Daum. By the way, keep your eyes on a hungry South Dakota State that was sixth in the nation in scoring and is desperately looking for their first ever NCAA Tourney win. We’re not saying that they’re going to advance past their first round game but they do catch an Ohio State group that has looked shaky as of late and South Dakota State will hoist up the 3’s in great numbers. Another hot team worth considering is San Diego State, which has won nine in a row and has Trey Kell, their senior leader, back. Having said all of that, we’re going to roll with the Zags and hope that the 2017 champion Tar Heels can break the Sweet 16 curse that dates back 11 years.
Picks: Gonzaga and North Carolina
Cinderellas: South Dakota State, San Diego State
Like the West, we see the East as a fairly weak region. The top two seeds have a history of not meeting their lofty seed expectations. For No. 1 seed Nova, it’s either feast or famine. Villanova is one of the best shooting teams in the nation but their last eight tournaments have seen them either in the Final Four or BBQ-ing after the first weekend. Similarly Purdue, which is the second best 3-point shooting team in the nation, has a poor track record as a No. 2 seed, having made it to the Elite Eight just once in 5 tries. However, we expect these two highflying offenses to be playing for a berth in the Final Four. Although this won’t totally be a bracket buster region, there should be some upsets outside of those two teams. Murray State will give offensively challenged West Virginia fits if they can handle the press, uber-defensive SFA will push Texas Tech’s guards, Marshalls’ unorthodox shoot-from-anywhere style might surprise Wichita State if they can knock down shots, and Butler could seriously challenge instate rival Purdue should those two meet in the second round.
Picks: Villanova and Purdue
Cinderellas: St. Bonny/UCLA, Murray State, Butler, Marshall
Talk about a tough region – the number 1 overall seed is probably the third best team in this group. This will be a bracket-busting group with a defensive-minded New Mexico State, a fast-paced but undersized Auburn, a guard talented but mysterious never-know-what-you-get ASU, a Marvin Bagley III led Duke, and a super talented Michigan State. Talk about a gauntlet, 4 of the 10 Naismith “Player of the Year” Semifinalists are playing in this region. While we have no faith in Kansas as a No. 1 seed under Bill Self (seven times a No. 1 seed and only one Final Four), there don’t appear to be any challengers in that half of the region. In the other half of the region, it seems a forgone conclusion that Duke and Michigan State will meet. The winner of that game has a real chance to win the whole tournament.
Picks: Kansas and Michigan State
Cinderellas: ASU/Syracuse, New Mexico State
OUR FINAL FOUR
Arizona, Gonzaga, Villanova, Michigan State
Arizona, Michigan State