Next to my birthday and Valentine’s Day, March Madness is my favorite time of year.
For those of you who have followed my sage tournament advice over the years, you no doubt know the luster of winning your office pool. So without further ado, here are my annual tips for winning March Madness.
Tip 1: Repeating is hard
Not only do defending champs rarely repeat, they rarely do well the following year. North Carolina was the defending champ last year and the Tar Heels couldn’t get past the second round. That means don’t take defending national champ Villanova very far this year.
Tip 2: Conference tournaments matter
The Vols got smoked in the SEC championship so what does that mean? Not much really. Take the Vols to make the Final Four and feel comfortable in doing so.
But teams that lose in the first round of their conference tournament have never, ever won a national championship.
What that means for you is don’t pick LSU, Texas Tech or Purdue to win it all.
Tip 3: The No. 1
overall seed is good
Since the Selection Committee began announcing the No. 1 overall seed in 2004, that seed has nearly a 50 percent chance of reaching the Final Four. It’s happened seven of the 15 years (46.7 percent).
That means you’re on solid ground to go ahead and pencil in Duke to reach the Final Four. As for the other three No. 1 seeds, they have reached the Final Four 35.6 percent of the time during that 15-year span.
Tip 4: Take the odds
For the first time since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985, a No. 16 seed has beaten a No. 1. That happened last year when Virginia was stunned by UMBC.
Overall, No. 1 seeds have a 135-1 record in the first round. Pretty strong.
When it comes to No. 2 seeds, their record is 128-8 over the past 34 years. Not bad either.
Don’t chase an upset here. Automatically pencil in all No. 1 and No. 2 seeds to win in the first round.
Tip 5: Speaking
Look to the matchup of 5-12 seeds if you want to pick an upset. The No. 5 seeds win 65.4 percent of the time, which makes that a prime spot for Cinderella to emerge.
Also of note, No. 6 seeds actually have a losing record over the last nine years, winning just 44 percent of the time.
Tip 6: Stay grounded
Folks love early round upsets, but they rarely dance long. There has never been an Elite Eight without a No. 1 seed and there have been only three Elite Eights without two No. 1 seeds.