College basketball fans big and small love the idea of winning their office March Madness pool. The problem is that predicting college basketball games is tricky and most people struggle to fill out a March Madness bracket without getting confused or overwhelmed. But there is a science to filling out a winning bracket that can be learned. Whether you want to bet on March Madness or you just want to win your office pool, here are some helpful tips for filling out your bracket on Selection Sunday.
Limit Your First-Round Upsets
Fans tend to think that the first two days of the NCAA Tournament are filled with upsets. However, of the 32 games in the Round of 64, most years only five to seven teams that are a no. 10 seed or lower advance. Even if you follow college basketball closely, it’s not likely that you’ll predict each of those upsets accurately. Therefore, try to hold yourself to no more than five upsets in the first round. As long as you corrected pick a couple of them, you should be in good shape by picking mostly chalk in the first round. If you pick too many upsets in the first round and don’t hit on enough of them, your bracket could be in trouble early. It’s hard to recover if you fall behind early, which is why you want to play it safe in the first round.
Consider Second-Round Upsets
It’s in the Round of 32 that you want to start looking at potential upsets. In any given year, there usually aren’t more than one or two teams that are head and shoulders above the rest of the country. This means that there isn’t a huge gap in talent between teams that are seeded 6, 7, or 8 and the higher seeds they’ll face in the Round of 32. It’s not out of the question for a few no. 1 or 2 seeds to lose their second game of the tournament and fail to make the Sweet 16. If you stick with chalk during the first round, the second round is when you should start taking more chances when it comes to predicting upsets because they won’t be as far-fetched at this point in the tournament.
Focus on the Final Four
As mentioned, most of the excitement of March Madness comes during the first weekend. However, the people who win office pools are those who can accurately pick the teams that reach the Final Four, especially if they can accurately pick the eventual champion. This is why you shouldn’t spend too much time focusing on picking games in the first round. Instead, do your research on what team will advance to the Final Four out of each region. Keep in mind that most teams that reach the Final Four are among the top three or four seeds in a region. If someone from outside that group makes the Final Four, don’t sweat it because almost nobody else in your pool will have predicted it. Take an in-depth look at the top four seeds in each region and pick one who you like the most and who you think has the clearest path to the Final Four. If you can nail at least three of the four teams for the Final Four, your bracket will be in good shape.
Don’t Look Ahead, Look Back
When you’re ready to make your picks for the Sweet 16, don’t look ahead at potential matchups in the next round. Instead, look back at previous rounds before making your pick. If you’re deciding between two teams, one factor to consider is what team is most vulnerable to being knocked out in a previous round. If you think one team has a tough matchup in the Round of 32, that may not be the best option for a run to the Final Four. The best advice for filling out a bracket is to play it safe whenever possible. Don’t take chances on a team reaching the Final Four if getting knocked off early in the tournament is a distinct possibility. In other words, make choices for the latter rounds based on what team has the best chance to still be alive at that point. This can help guide you to accurately pick the teams that go to the Final Four and beyond.
Make sure you’ve filled out all the slots
Once you have your bracket filled out for your pool, you should double-check to make sure all the games are set. If something isn’t where it’s supposed to be, it could ruin your overall score. Selection Sunday only happens once a year and there is usually a lot of excitement around the brackets and who’s going which way. Picking the correct teams is absolutely essential, but making sure all the slots are correctly entered can be just as important.
As soon as you have all your picks made, go over each game and confirm that everything is right. Make sure all the games have been filled out, even if you haven’t chosen a team. Some picks can seem insignificant, especially when one team looks like a lock to win – but making an effort to fill out every slot for every game will increase your chances of success in certain pools where someone could pick an upset in a seemingly insignificant game that could give them an edge.
Make sure all your picks are the same across all platforms
It’s easy to make mistakes when entering picks for so many teams and games, and you don’t want to lose track of which picks are correct. The last thing you want is for a misclick or an unintentional habit to cost you points or even the win.
To ensure accuracy, make sure you enter the same picks across all platforms used for your pool. This includes the traditional paper sheet that goes around the office, online brackets (typically through Yahoo Sports), digital bracket systems (such as ESPN’s Bracket Challenge Game or CBS Sports Tournament Challenge), mobile apps (like Fox Sports Super 6), and even social media polls—Twitter Moments, Facebook Live polls, etc.