Weekly 5: Strategies for filling out the NCAA ‘March Madness’ bracket


Millions of Americans around the country will be participating in this year’s NCAA “March Madness” basketball bracket tournament. With prize money, recognition and bragging rights on the line, some students put a lot of time and thought into filling out their bracket. With over 9.2 quintillion possible brackets, the odds of a person picking a perfect bracket are low but possible. To help with one of the most crucial decisions one to be made this month, here are five strategies students use when it comes time to fill out their bracket.

1. Pick your seeds wisely

This might seem obvious to some, but there is a point in the logic of picking according to seed numbers. There are several bracket combinations one can create solely based on this theory, and people have their own reason for picking the seeds they do. Some students won’t pick a team below a sixth seed to go into the sweet sixteen while others will pick ninth seeds over eighth seeds to win (Fact: ninth seeds have won over half their games vs. eighth seeds).

Tyler Orton, a psychology student from Houston, Texas, explained his logic behind this strategy.

“I won’t pick anyone below a sixth seed to go into the final four because, strategically speaking, it’s impossible. The lowest seed to ever win was an eighth seed.”

2. Go presidential

Whether you agree or disagree with President Obama and his policies, in past years the president has managed to surprise the country with some of his picks. Back in 2009, President Obama correctly chose North Carolina. However, in 2012 the President — right along with the rest of the country — picked Missouri for the Final Four.

One could just pick the president’s bracket and see how well it does. Adding a little politics into sports can be exciting and bring a little more competition into the bracket, if there isn’t one already.

3. Let the mascots decide

We’ve seen the “Epic Rap Battle” videos on YouTube and asked ourselves what two historical or fictional figures would win in a fight (Gandalf or Dumbledore, anyone?). Here is the chance to do something similar but with college mascots.

When it comes to filling out her bracket, Alexandra Butler, a chemical engineering major from Gilbert, Ariz., enjoys putting this strategy to use.

“I don’t always get it right, but it’s fun to come up with all these random scenarios on who would win solely based on mascots,” Butler said. “Things can get pretty creative in some scenarios.”

This strategy, however, requires some studying and creativity, because few people know what some mascots, like a Billikens, are, but it adds a fun spin to the selection process.

4. Trust past statistics

Analyzing past performances on seeds and teams can work well for picking a winning bracket if you are willing to put a lot of time into researching past statistics.

Bronte Sam, an exercise science major from Provo, takes time and bases her decisions on previous observations and statistics she’s found.

“In the first round I always pick the highest seed to win,” Sam said. “I’ve never seen an upset in the first round, and for my Final Four I usually pick at least one number-one seed to win.”

In this strategy, history can be the greatest teacher and lead you closer to the perfect bracket.

5. Go with your gut

Forget all the research, the seeds, the countless hours of arguing with friends, and go with your gut feeling. You may end up with some weird selections that will surprise others. But no one knows how the games will turn out, and so your guess is as good as anybody else’s.

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