Wannabe Bracketology

It’s that time of year again. One of the most wonderful times of the year for this UNC alum and avid sports fan – March Madness.

Everyone you know will be filling out their brackets this week, getting ready for the NCAA College Basketball Tournament to start. Maybe someone has asked you if you want to be in their pool – or maybe you’d just like to fill it out so you have something to cheer for while your husband or boyfriend watches game after game after game.

But if you’re not really into sports, seeing this can be a bit intimidating.

Maybe you look at that bracket and you have no idea where to start. That’s where I hope this post will help.

The first thing to know? Don’t stress about getting it all right. You won’t. I promise.

According to Darren Rovell, the odds of getting a perfect bracket are 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 to 1. So you can go ahead and get over that idea right now.

But just because you won’t get it all right doesn’t mean that you can’t be competitive and give somebody a run for their money. Here’s how to do it.

Understand the Bracket

One of the most important things to understand about picking your bracket is the way teams are seeded – how the teams are ranked at the start of the tournament. Each region of the tournament has teams seeded 1-16. The selection committee thinks the teams with the lower number (like the #1 seed) is the best in that region. This gets a little confusing because this is usually referred to as a “higher seed”.

But just remember #1 is best (or at least ranked the highest) and go from there.

You’ll see that the the highest seeded team (#1) is paired against the lowest seeded team (#16). That’s because that best team in the region is supposedly given the easiest road to the championship.

Choosing Your Teams

It is important to remember that there is a reason one team is a #3 and another is a #12. It’s almost like the analysts have done the work for you. At least on paper, the #3 is a better team.

When it doubt, pick the team with the lower number.

Let’s use an example.

The #3 Baylor Bears are playing the #14 South Dakota State Jack Rabbits on Thursday evening. Most people expect the Bears to win – that’s why they are a #3 seed. It is definitely the safer bet. Don’t get distracted by the fact that you think the Jack Rabbits is the cutest mascot you’ve ever seen. It’s okay to pick a few upsets (and this one might be the one you decide to pick) but be strategic about it.


Let’s talk about “upsets” for a moment, shall we?

Everyone loves to root for the “Cinderella Stories” in the NCAA tournament. Last year, VCU (#11) made it to the Final Four. Why is it a Cinderella Story? Because it virtually never happens.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t pick any upsets – but you should be strategic about which ones you pick. Here are a few tips:

  • I don’t care how much you love their team’s color – don’t pick a team that is seeded #16 to beat a #1 seed. It has never happened. It probably won’t happen this year either.
  • Pick at least one #12 seed to beat a #5 seed. It happens almost every year.
  • Your best bet for “upsets” would be either a #9 beating a #8 or a #7 beating a #10.
And if you pick one a lower seeded team to pull off an upset, look very carefully at their next match up. Lightning doesn’t usually strike twice.

Want to get in on the action? I’ve set up our very own bloggers bracket challenge –  Wannabe Bracketology! Just follow the link and use the password “playtowin” to join.

FYI – you do not have to be a blogger to participate and it costs nothing to join. It’s all for bragging rights – unless anyone would like to donate a prize for the winner! 🙂

There are 9.2 quintillion combinations in a March Madness bracket. There are 43 quintillion combinations in a Rubik’s Cube. Good luck!


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11 Responses to Wannabe Bracketology

  1. I usually do a few brackets, rarely for money. It’s fun! I’ll be playing in yours and might have to pick my alma mater for a pretty big upset. Go SBU!

  2. I love your tips! I just filled out my bracket last night and picked a #12 team to upset a #5! I saw you are a Tarheels fan – our household is too!!! My girls have worn their UNC hairbows in the hair everyday this week to school : )

  3. You’re so cute! We love brackets in my family..well who am I kidding…we love to “bet” against each other any all major sporting events. I can’t wait until the sweet 16 when I have been mathematically eliminated from winning once again!


  4. Haley

    Score! This sports addict will definitely be joining!!!

  5. You helped me pick my bracket at work and I also joined your bracket!

  6. I looooooooooove March Madness and usually have a gazillion brackets all with different scenarios cuz it’s no fun when they all go bust haha.

  7. This is great, I’m in! I’m a Kansas alumni though so don’t hate me too much 🙂

  8. What a great idea! I should do one of your brackets but I’m in a state of depression right now. I’m a Syracuse grad. We’re doomed. It’s amazing how quickly I went from being so excited to this feeling of dread.


  9. I am a special ed teacher, and my principal is doing a staff “morale” March Madness, where she divides up the faculty onto teams (we do different morale boosting things for each other and some fun competitions to earn points). I’m on Ohio St. Not sure how we’ll do this year!

  10. Awesome! I love it. This is the first year in I don’t know how many years I wasn’t able to fill out a bracket (I was on vacation) and I’m missing it. Seriously, this is my favorite time of year. I usually suck at brackets though because I go with my heart instead of my head.

    PS Don’t hate me because I’m a Duke fan! 🙂

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