The brackets are out and we are back here for another year to try and project how each team will perform. To help us pick each of the regions, we ran 5,000 simulations on the tournament to see how everyone would fare. Here at DRatings, we don’t pick “upsets”. As statisticians, it is our goal to maximize your chances of winning your office pool or tournament challenge. We suggest a few tips to get an edge on your competition.
Tips for Picking Your NCAA Bracket
- Avoid the stupid early underdogs: We know that you are dying to pick that 14-seed over the 3-seed. After all, it seemingly happens every year, right? Actually, this has happened five times in the last four years, but does that make it a smart bet? The answer is “No.”! Historically, the 3-seed wins 83% of the time and the odds of you picking that lucky underdog, if they do pull it off, is rare.
- Know the smart underdogs: Wait! I thought you just said to avoid the underdogs? Now we get into the question of how an underdog is defined. Just because a team is seeded lower doesn’t mean that they aren’t favored to win! These are actually the best spots to gain some extra points against your competitors as most people assume the higher seed is always better. An example this year can be seen in the Dayton vs. Wichita State match. Our game projections (as well as the Vegas sportsbooks) have the 10-seed Wichita State as a six point favorite over 7-seed Dayton.
- Who is everyone else picking in the finals?: This is the hardest tip to apply as you have to use a little bit of intuition and know the group you are playing against. People love picking their home town team to go all the way. If you are playing in an office pool in Los Angeles then you may be inclined to pick some team other than UCLA or Arizona as there will surely be a slight Pac-12 bias. A sleeper this year is Gonzaga. They are 10 to 1 to win the tournament and you can bet that almost no one will have them going all the way in the tournament. It’s still a long shot, but if you have 100 people in your office pool and you are the only one to have Gonzaga going all the way then it’s a great bet!
The East Region
Villanova is the one-seed, but Duke is the favorite to make the Final Four out of the group. Our simulation also gives Duke the third-best odds to win the entire tournament.
The West Region
With only one loss and arguably the easiest path to the Final Four, Gonzaga has the second-best odds to win the NCAA Tournament at 12.9%. Watch out for Xavier as the 11-seed as they have decent odds to sneak into the Sweet Sixteen.
The Midwest Region
Arguably the most competitive bracket, the top four seeds in the Midwest all have over a 10% chance of making the Final Four.
The South Region
In what we think is the strongest bracket, the South yields three legitimate title contenders in UNC, Kentucky and UCLA. Though Kentucky is only a two-seed, they have our highest odds of winning the title at 13.5%.