It’s the most.. wonderful time… of the year! Ok, so that is probably an overstatement, but it is a really fun time of year. March Madness is upon us! As you will hear virtually everywhere, there are no really clear-cut favorites this season. There have been over 20 Top 5 teams that lost to unranked opponents during this season and the #1 spot was tossed around like a hot potato. The team that ended the regular season with the #1 ranking is only the 4th rated #1 seed in the tournament. So with so much uncertainty, what can I possibly offer to help you get ready for the tournament? I’ll give you some tips, tricks, and even bust some myths. Oh, and I’ll also give you the chance to compete against many of the RandomThoughtsIllustrated.com contributors! So let’s dive right in!
Myth #1 – Anyone Can Win This Tournament
I’ve heard this a few times leading up to the tournament and I was even tempted to make that kind of an opening statement…at least until I had James & the Swamette make their picks! (More on that in a minute). The truth is that are probably around 16 or so schools that could win it all, which is a huge number. But don’t go crazy and pick someone WAY off the radar. Inevitably it probably won’t be a surprise champion. There could be a surprise Final Four team, but even that isn’t too terribly likely, so keep at least a foot well grounded when filling out your bracket.
Tip #1 – Sit Down With Your Kids and Let Them Pick
This turned out to be much more amusing than I had pictured. I thought that I would get James & the Swamette to pick a bracket based on colors, or mascots, or something like that. In the end, there are so many games, the best approach was to do a mix of the two. I learned a couple of things very quickly… if they find a team name to be amusing, there is a good likelihood that team will go deep into the tournament. (Akron…you were the big winner on that front…go Zips!). Also, if a school has the same moniker as your child’s elementary school, that team will also go very far (here’s looking at you Valpo!). But whatever you do, just enjoy the cackling that you hear as your kids laugh at the schools and the team names. Oh, and if you have no idea what a team’s mascot is and just call them the “I have no idea” team, that is also a good way to have them get picked a lot (you’re welcome Florida Gulf Coast!).
Trick #1 – When in doubt, check the defensive rankings of each team
The facet of a team that is least likely to just disappear in the NCAA tournament is their defense. So when in doubt, if the level of play between the teams is somewhat close and you need a tiebreaking stat, go with D.
Tip #2 – Don’t pick too many #1’s
Most folks know this, but only once have all 4 #1’s made the Final Four in a season…and those were four ELITE #1 seeds that season. This is not that season. I am guaranteeing it right here and right now. It will not happen this year. Take that to the bank. Of course, don’t go too haywire…I’d expect 1 to 2 #1’s to make it so don’t let the hate go too far.
Trick #2 – Coaches Matter
In college basketball more than any sport I can think of, the coaches involved in the game can absolutely impact the outcome. They are not a guarantee…but they definitely matter. And keep in mind that goes for the upstart teams as well. Mark Few, Shaka Smart, and Brad Stevens are as much of an X-factor as Jim Boeheim, Tom Izzo, and Bill Self. (Note: I didn’t include Coach K because I didn’t want to Google the correct spelling of his name…so sue me).
Myth #2 – Play-in Games (Confusingly Known as 1st Round Games) Don’t Matter
VCU debunked this in 2011
Myths #3 & #4 – If you follow basketball you have a great chance of winning or if you know nothing about basketball you have the best chance of winning
Neither one is really true. What is true is that you are trying to predict the actions of 68 groups of guys between the ages of 18-25 over the course of 3 weeks with too many factors for you to come up with an algorithm for. Realize that skill is not the ultimate factor, but it helps you avoid picking Florida Gulf Coast in the National Title game. And then let the chips fall where they may.
Trick #3 – Pay Attention to where the game is being played
Kansas State having a 2nd Round game in Kansas City instead of in Boise can definitely swing the momentum of a game.
Trick #4 – Make sure you know who is in the Tournament!
Tip #3 – Join the RandomThoughtsIllustrated picks group on ESPN’s Tournament Challenge!!
If you’ve ever wanted to beat The Swami or some of the other contributors from RandomThoughtsIllustrated.com, this is your chance!! Just create a bracket on ESPN.com’s Tournament Challenge and join the group!
So come on and enjoy! I promise that you have a really good chance against James & the Swamette! (Of course if you lose to them, there will likely be some laughter!)