For basketball fans, March means bracket time. Setting up your NCAA Tournament bracket might be a cakewalk for avid college basketball fans, but if you're like me, you're scratching your head and wondering how to get in on the action without exposing a complete lack of knowledge regarding the current state of men's college basketball. If you're one of those people, consider this a lifeline. Here we will outline some of the surprisingly simple ways you can increase your chances of winning your pool, even if you don't know a lot about college basketball.
First, a bit of background.
A bracket is a visual representation of the elimination and progression of each of the 68 competing college basketball teams during tournament play. A pool is a betting structure wherein each of the players pays a buy-in fee that is then split among the winner or winners. Sometimes all you play for are bragging rights. If one of your friends, family members or co-workers asks you to participate in their March bracket pool, fear not.
After reading our guide, you'll be feeling March Happiness.
63 games is a lot. Relax. You don't have to be a sports fanatic or a fortune teller to pick your winners. Being part of a bracket pool is fun and easy with a few pointers from us. You don't need to correctly pick the winners of every game to win the pool. Points are awarded for each game outcome that you correctly predict, the pool winner being the one who earned the highest number of points. Furthermore, there are a few tricks of the trade that make winning your bracket pool easier than you might expect.
Pro Tip #1: Trust the Seeds
On Selection Sunday, a super-exclusive Selection Committee will seed each of the teams into four competing regions. That means the 68 teams will receive a seed of 1 through 17 within their region. These seedings roughly correspond to each team's rankings going into the tournament. While everybody loves an underdog, each team's seeding is a pretty reliable measure of where they will end up, at least as far as the Sweet Sixteen is concerned. Assume the top seeded teams will make it to the Sweet Sixteen, and choose a highly seeded team (No. 4 or higher) to win the trophy.
Tip-off: However, there is an exception to this rule: in the first round of games it is likely that the No. 12 seed will beat the No. 5 seeded team, at least according to history. Go ahead and throw an upset in there. Maybe two if you are feeling dangerous.
Pro Tip #2: Do Your Yesearch
While you don't need to know the free-throw percentage of every player on Duke's starting lineup, a basic familiarity with a team's strengths and weaknesses will be a big help as you narrow down your bracket from 16 teams to one.
Tip-off: If you only consider four stats, make them shooting, turnovers, rebounding and free throws. These measure the essential facets of a team's performance and should give you an overall picture of its chance of success.
Pro Tip #3: Go with Your Gut
There is no denying that winning your pool is going to require a bit of luck. The NCAA basketball tournament is single elimination - one strike and you're out. This makes for an exciting event as favorites succumb to underdogs in one fell swoop, but it also makes predicting a winner a little tricky. Alternative methods to research-focused 2014 NCAA bracket selection include what we like to call:
The Mascot Rumble: Whose mascot would win in a no-holds-barred cage match? While this may seem like a no-brainer for teams like the Michigan Wolverines and the Kansas Jayhawks, the strategy breaks down for teams like the Syracuse Orange and the Ohio State Buckeyes. That's OK. Maybe you like oranges? Or you have a thing for Brutus' scarlet and grey sweater. Pick your favorite mascot and go with your gut.
The Coin Toss: When you are talking about the top teams in the NCAA, the odds of either one winning are about even. You have a 50/50 shot, right?
The Premonition: There is something poetic about the word Villanova. "I think one of my cousins knew somebody at Wichita State." "I think the bartender from last night went to Arizona." When you go with your gut, all reasons are valid.
So there you have it. For a winning your 2014 NCAA bracket, all you have to do is trust the seeds, do a little research, and try your luck. You may be surprised at how well you actually do.
Who do you think will take home the NCAA National Championship trophy?
November is one of the best months of the year for sports fans. The NFL and college football are both starting to heat up while basketball and hockey are usually kicking off. November is also when college basketball teams begin their march toward the Final Four in April, and this year it looks like some historic programs will be making a push toward the title.
Indiana comes into the year after having one of its best seasons in recent memory. Last year, the Hoosiers advanced to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in 10 years, and it looked like they were moving toward returning to their glory days of the 1970s and 80s. Pollsters seem to have taken note - the Hoosiers enter the season as number one on the Associated Press Top 25.
It's easy to understand why many experts see big things from Indiana this year. Not only are they led by a great coach in Tom Crean, but they return almost all of last year's squad including seven-foot sophomore Cody Zeller, a unanimous preseason All-American. The return of Zeller, coupled with the arrival of guard Kevin Ferrell, has Indiana sitting as a good pick.
But you can never count out last year's champ Kentucky. Unlike Indiana, the Wildcats return virtually nobody from last year's team, including freshman phenom Anthony Davis (now with the New Orleans Hornets), but coach John Calipari has a new crop of young, talented stars waiting in the wings. Leading the charge is North Carolina State transfer Ryan Harrow who will run the point, but he will be joined by the likes of freshmen Nerlens Noel and Alex Poythress.
The Wildcats aren't the only team from Kentucky to enter the season with high expectations, cross-state rivals Louisville are in the mix as well. The Cardinals visited the Final Four last year under the leadership of coach Rick Pitino, and they return three starters from the team, which had one of the best defenses in the country. It certainly won't surprise anybody if Peyton Siva and Russ Smith lead the Cardinals back to the Final Four.
Last year was strange that Kentucky was the presumptive favorite and never wavered from their quest to capture the title, but that might not be the case this year. Though Indiana, Kentucky and Louisville lead the way, this year is wide open. Anybody - from Ohio State and Michigan, to Syracuse and UCLA - could end up cutting down the net come April.
From college basketball’s top 64 teams, there remain just four – all vying for the same dream, to be crowned NCAA Men’s Basketball National Champions.
We took a look at trends in ticket resale prices to gauge the excitement of college basketball fans as well as demand for Final Four tickets.
Who do you think is going to win it all?