Due to the dismissal of PASPA, this year’s edition of March Madness figures to be one of the most feverish for bracket completions. Making your March Madness betting picks is already nerve-wracking enough, so here is a March Madness Bracket Contest Guide to aid you in filling out your selections.
Picking one’s bracket(s) for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, aka March Madness, has become big business. Americans typically complete 70 million brackets and wager more than $10 billion each year on the tournament.
Needless to say, many companies have wanted to cash in on the flow of March Madness money, and have tried to do so by hosting bracket contests.
What is a March Madness bracket contest?
A bracket contest is a sort of union between March Madness and fantasy football. In essence, several people fill out brackets and then compete to see whose March Madness predictions are most accurate.
Much like fantasy football, each round of the tournament is assigned a point value. Players earn points if their predictions come true; the player with the highest point total at the tournament’s end wins.
Obviously, the point totals escalate the deeper into the March Madness tournament selections go. A correct prediction of the eventual national champion often swings the outcome of the entire contest.
For starters, here is PlayUSA’s printable March Madness bracket. To download, click the small arrow button.PlayUSA2019NCAAbracket
DraftKings Sportsbook is handing out big bucks in its bracket contests
Most bracket contests occur online, and some of them can be quite expansive. Major companies like ESPN and Yahoo! host competitions between hundreds of thousands of players across the world. However, DraftKings Sportsbook is putting some real money on the line with two separate contests on DraftKings Brackets.
First, DraftKings is opening its site up to the entire US for its free-to-enter contest. Millions of Americans can fill out a bracket on the New Jersey site’s app.
High scorers in this contest will receive a share of a $64,000 pot. The contest will be the first time that many Americans have experienced the company in black and green.
DraftKings is also offering a special promotion for its customers in the Garden State. For a $20 bet, New Jersey residents and visitors can enter a separate bracket contest with a $100,000 prize pool.
So, there’s no reason not to give DraftKings a try in the next few weeks. However, trying to predict the outcome of 63 games can be quite daunting.
The good news is that some basic tenets can help you find success in your selections.
March Madness bracket selection guide
When it comes to March Madness odds, the favorites usually win
Advice: Pick all Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 4 seeds to advance from their first game.
The games that every March Madness fan remembers are the huge March Madness upsets. Nothing thrills like the unexpected.
However, don’t let the siren call of underdog victory sway you too much. The seedings are usually pretty accurate for determining which teams are the best squads.
In the 34 years since the tournament expanded to 64 teams, a No. 1 seed has won the championship 21 times. In fact, No. 1 seeds have made the Final Four 56 times, meaning that No. 1 seeds are usually half of each final quartet.
Nine more championships have gone to No. 2 or No. 3 seeds. The lowest seed ever to win the whole tournament was a No. 8 seed (Villanova in 1985).
So, generally speaking, stick to the higher-ranked teams. The top four teams in each bracket win their first games at least 80 percent of the time.
The key word, however, is ‘usually’
Advice: Be cautious, but pick a couple of March Madness upsets from the Nos. 10 and 12 seeds.
Of course, the higher ranks don’t always win, either. If they did, there would be no point to play any of the games.
Logically, the higher the discrepancy between the seeds, the lower the chance of an upset. Indeed, the nearest first round seed collision — No. 8 vs. No. 9 — is split exactly evenly in terms of win-loss record.
Statistically, the best chance of an upset has laid with the Nos. 10 and 11 seeds. Each of these seeds has defeated their first-round opponents more than 50 times.
No. 12 seeds perform only slightly worse, with 47 wins to their collective names. In terms of probability, Nos. 10, 11 and 12 seeds have odds of winning slightly better than 1 in 3.
With four matchups at each seed level, that means that one of these teams usually wins its first game each year. Predicting which one is the hard part, but choosing all Nos. 5, 6 and 7 teams to win their first-round games seems like a bad move.
Otherwise, March Madness upsets are far less likely. Until 2018, a No. 16 seed victory seemed an impossibility.
Look out for March Madness favorites who are limping or cresting
Advice: Use caution with higher-ranked teams that seem broken, tired, or flawed.
College basketball teams are finicky by nature. Earlier success does not necessarily predict later glory for teams.
However, one of the biggest problems for “bracketeers” is determining which higher-ranked teams are due for a letdown. The best clues to answer that problem are in each team’s recent performance.
For instance, a No. 1 seed that lost its second-best player in the conference championship is not the same team that earned its seed. Even if the team survives the first round, it is considerably weaker than its seed would indicate.
Similarly, a loss in a conference tournament can bode poorly for a high-ranked team. Gonzaga‘s loss to Saint Mary’s is likely a fluke, but the smart picker should proceed with caution in picking the ‘Zags.
The third element that may be cause for alarm is if the team has some intrinsic flaw. A team that doesn’t play defense but wins because it turns every game into a track meet is highly susceptible to running into an obstacle. Favor teams that have solid fundamentals and more than one way to succeed.
Look for March Madness sleepers or lower-ranked teams that are surging or peaking
Advice: Examine the recent March Madness histories of low seeds and look for strings of wins.
A basketball season is long. It is not uncommon for teams to change or develop identities as the season progresses. So, a team’s record is not the whole story. Look for when the losses occurred to get a sense of the team’s identity.
A team on a hot streak entering the tournament is a far better bet than an up-and-down squad. So, when it comes to NCAA March Madness betting, examine how the team performed in its final games of the season and/or its conference tournament.
If the team has seemed to put it all together recently, it may be a good bet for a deep run. For instance, Loyola Chicago’s Final Four run last year capped a two-month period in which the team only lost once — in its Final Four game with Michigan.
Above all else, have fun with your Bracketology
Advice: Perfection is unattainable, and non-scientific approaches work just as well.
All the advice above notwithstanding, don’t lose your house on NCAAB basketball betting in 2019. To date, no person in history has filled out a perfect bracket.
In fact, the chance of selecting a perfect bracket is estimated to be 1 in 2.4 trillion. The possibilities are low enough that billionaire Warren Buffett has offered a $1-million-per-year prize to anyone who pulls it off; that money remains quite safe.
Some fans have found plenty of success using unscientific methods as to who will win March Madness. These include choosing teams at random, choosing based upon mascot, and choosing based upon school color are all valid methods.
So, above all else, remember to check the March Madness schedule, watch the games and enjoy the drama. Watching someone’s bracket go up in flames is almost as grand a tradition as filling them out.
The 2019 March Madness bracket will be ready for predictions during the evening of March 17. The play-in games will occur March 19-20 in Dayton, Ohio. The tournament begins March 21.