Featured Column, Men's Basketball

A Last-Minute Guide To A March Madness Bracket

If you’re reading this, it’s not too late.

The madness is upon us, but only the “First Four” teams have played so far, which means you probably still have a couple of hours left to fill out your bracket for this year.

Chances are, if you haven’t made a bracket yet, you probably aren’t that into college basketball—a shame, really. But you should fill one out nevertheless, because nothing compares to the big dance—a month-long, magical journey of mid-major fairytales, unfathomable upsets, and a roller coaster of emotions.

I know what you’re thinking: It’s too late at this point, the first game starts today at 12:15 p.m. Have no fear, though. ESPN and other online brackets may lock automatically at the start of the first game, but you always have time to fill out a good old-fashioned pen and paper bracket. Besides, who cares about the first game, since Notre Dame is going to roll over Northeastern anyway.

Whether you know nothing about basketball or are just too lazy to fill out a bracket, I have the right advice for you, the type of advice that will create the right bracket and will have you glued to every game of the tournament. Follow along:

  1. Don’t pick Kentucky. Yeah, they are undoubtedly the best team in the country right now, but a team hasn’t gone undefeated since 1976. Instead, go with a team like Arizona, the contrarian pick of this year’s bracket according to Ed Feng in a Grantland article. Feng has a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from Stanford, runs his own sports analytics website, and wrote an E-book called “How To Win Your NCAA Tournament Pool.” Listen to what the man says.

  2. Pick all the 12-5 upsets! Except one: Utah. Delon Wright is going to put the team on his back, like Shabazz Napier did last year with UConn, and carry the Utes to the final four. Besides that one, what’s not to like about Buffalo and Wyoming, which both scream “a team full of white guys,” and Wofford, which is just fun to say.

  3. The head coach of Eastern Washington, a 13-seed, guaranteed a win over Georgetown in the first round. That type of confidence, plus Georgetown’s track record of losing within the first two rounds every year, means that you should pencil the Eagles in for the first big upset of the tournament.

  4. While we are on the subject of upsets, pick the Anteaters of UC Irvine. For one, anteaters are awesome, and two, they have the tallest player in college hoops, Mamadou N’diaye, who checks in at 7-foot-6. That, my friends, equals a winning combination.

  5. When in doubt, flip a coin. My “coin-flip” bracket this year has No. 10 Indiana cutting down the nets in Indianapolis after defeating the Aztecs of San Diego State. You never know, the ghost of Cody Zeller could return and lift the Hoosiers to a national championship.

  6. Coins are hard to come by these days, with the likes of PayPal, Snapcash, Facebook Messenger, and Venmo becoming the favored form of money transaction. So when you can’t find that spare penny or quarters in your couch, broaden your horizons. You have some options, here. You could pick based on the game of Scrabble, or you could choose the team with the coolest mascot—in which case the Anteaters, Blazers, Chanticleers, Shockers, Leopards, and Great Danes are all set for big runs.

  7. Take an hour out of your morning to devour all the analytics and statistics that come along with the big dance. Nate Silver and the FiveThirtyEight blog is a great place to start, with interactive brackets that show every team’s win probability in all rounds. Then, jaunt over to kenpom.com and feast your eyes on Ken Pomeroy’s analysis of luck rating (Wofford has the highest!) and adjusted tempo (North Carolina is the fastest tourney team). Lastly, check out Shane Ryan’s “MoneyBrackets” guide. The world is your oyster when it comes to analytics and the NCAA Tournament. You may not understand it all, but you’ll sound really smart in front of your friends when you tell them how Wisconsin has the highest adjusted offensive efficiency rating.

  8. Fill out a women’s bracket, and pick UConn to win it all. Notre Dame may come close in the final, but no one can stop Breanna Stewart and the Huskies. Also look for undefeated Princeton to make a nice run. Plus, the tournament doesn’t start until March 20th, so you have plenty of time to get into it.

  9. Like an aged cheese to complement a fine wine, pair your women’s bracket with an NIT bracket. Ignore the fact that it already started and pick some random team to win it all. The aforementioned mascot system works well here. Just do anything to embrace the tournament of best runner-ups.

  10. Follow all the teams with any connection to your family. If you want to join my family, get behind Harvard, Notre Dame, Lafayette, and St. Johns. If you’re mom’s cousin’s son went to grad school at Oklahoma, roll with the Sooners all the way.

  11. Maybe you shouldn’t make a bracket. Watch the games for the fun of it, and just breathe in all the madness around you without the agonizing pressure of having a pick—and possibly money—on the line.

  12. This is the year of the 16-1 seed upset. I was high on the Ospreys of North Florida until they got bounced in the play-in game by Robert Morris, so now I’m going with Colonials to take down Coach K and the Dukies, instead. Anarchy!

I’ve been told by familiar sources that this is the year of the perfect bracket, and you have just as much of a chance as anyone to pull off the impossible. Pick the Anteaters, listen to the stat experts, and have some fun with it.

Before you know it, you’ll be screaming at the TV screen as VCU and Ohio State go into a second overtime, and suddenly you’ll thank me for opening your eyes to all that madness within one simple bracket.


March 19, 2015