I always have a lot of people ask how they should pick their bracket. There are a variety of different strategies that can be employed to your bracket and we will discuss a lot of them below. If you read my other stuff, then you will note that I typically go chalk. Picking brackets is no different. When I say “chalk”, I mean that I typically follow my own NCAA Game Predictions which very closely resemble the Vegas lines. Without further adieu:
The Most Likely Bracket
This is also the bracket that I use in my various office pools. I’ve always been a proponent of picking the team with the highest probability of winning. Naturally, this corresponds to the “most likely outcome”. Last year we did a blog post on what the probability was of picking a perfect bracket here, and came up with a number in ball park of 1 in 46 billion. So, I know that this bracket will be just as busted as every one else’s bracket come Friday afternoon.
A Few Bracket Picking Tips
- Don’t pick early underdogs: Yes, some jerk in the office is going to pick the 14-seed to move on to the Sweet Sixteen, the 14-seed somehow will, and your co-worker will be bragging about their eternal college basketball knowledge. Guess what? That is the first sign that your co-worker has no idea what they are doing. In the long run, you will do much better playing the favorites and the “smart underdogs”. My definition of a smart underdog is 10-seed Pittsburgh actually being the Vegas favorite over 7-seed Xavier.
- Know the smart underdogs: As mentioned in the last bullet point, it is always wise to go with the Vegas odds over the bracket seeds. Especially this year, the people seeding the tournament did what I would argue to be a horrible job. There are a lot of opportunities to pick some lower seeds that will actually be favored in their games.
- Think about your competition when making your picks: I play my office pools with groups of people that are mostly from Ohio. Everyone in Ohio thinks that Ohio State will win everything (though this year they aren’t in the tournament). This can work in your favor if you go against the grain. Of course, if your Ohio State equivalent goes on a little run, then your bracket is done for.
NCAA Tournament Probabilities to Make Rounds and Win Championship
We ran 5,000 simulations to find out how far each of the teams would go in the tournament. For the South/East Brackets…
And for the West/Midwest Brackets…