Prognosticating The Madness: Tips on Filling Out Your Bracket


I am not a March Madness expert, no one is.  I am not even an self-proclaimed March Madness expert, a lot of people are.  But I have been watching hours and hours of college basketball and filling out a bracket each March since 1991.  Over those years I have won tournament pools a few times but I normally do not.  But I do finish in the top 1/3 almost every year and have a lot of fun filling out my bracket every year so I do feel somewhat qualified to offer some advice on filling out a decent bracket and not driving yourself crazy in doing so.  

So with that disclaimer in place I offer you some advice mingled with opinion on how to fill out a March Madness bracket.  

1. Do Not Listen To Your Heart: It Will Lead You Astray 

The best way to have a bloody, bloody bracket after the first weekend is to go with your heart and pick all your favorite teams to win and pick all the teams that you don’t like to lose.  Nothing will kill your bracket faster.  I am an alum of Utah State.  They were in the NCAA Tournament in 2005, 2006, 2009, 2010 and 2011 where they lost in the First Round each time.  I gave into my heart each time and picked them to pull-off a First Round upset but a berth in the Sweet 16 was out of the question and not succumbing to that temptation saved me a lot of additional heartache when they inevitably bowed out in the first game.  Your odds of picking the correct winners increases the more you use your brain instead of your heart.  The Aggies are not dancing this season but Gonzaga is, my other alma mater.  They received an #8 seed and an unfavorable matchup against Oklahoma St. in the First Round.  My heart says Zags, but my brain says Marcus Smart will overpower the undersized Kevin Pangos and David Stockton in a 9 to 11 point win for the Cowboys.  The pick painfully has to be Oklahoma St., and you know what? It’s actually a win-win, if Gonzaga does win than I get the joy of the Zags getting the win, if they lose, well I picked Oklahoma St. and so it helps my bracket.  

2.  Pick Loyalty:  Don’t Change Your Picks

Treat filling out your bracket like taking a multiple choice test.  Once you pick a team you got to stick with it.  I have miss-picked a lot of games because I made all my picks on the Sunday night the brackets were released and then after listening to all the talking heads on TV and the radio I became persuaded to change some of my picks.  Doing so has never helped my bracket, only hurt it.  Don’t be loyal to your teams in filling out your bracket, be loyal to your picks.  

3.  Take A Breath: Let the Bracket Sink In Before Filling It Out

This is something that I am trying for the first time this year.  Every year before this I have filled out my bracket on the Sunday night the Brackets were released.  I did that because I didn’t want to over-think my picks, but I don’t know how much that has helped so I am going to give it twenty-four hours and make my picks tomorrow night.  It can’t hurt.  We will see how it goes.  

4. No One Is An Expert:  Make Your Own Picks 

No one out there on any TV or radio show really knows what they are talking about when they say hours after the brackets are released that this team will beat this team and this team will lose here and this team will go this far, etc.  The truth is they are guessing just as much as you.  Don’t make a pick because Jay Bilas says that a team is going to go to the Final Four.  Even more important, don’t make a pick because Dick Vitale says that a team is going to go to the Final Four.  You have a better chance making your picks based on the strengths of their mascots than modeling your picks after this shouting head.  

5.  Don’t Sandbag It: If You Want a Sense of Accomplishment When You Make A Correct Pick Only Fill Out One Bracket:  

I fell strongly about this last point. Nothing waters down making correct picks than the fact that a correct pick was made on one of your ten different brackets.  Man up, or if the case may be woman up and fill out one bracket.  Yes, there are a lot of games that are hard to pick but don’t wuss out and decide to pick one team to win a game in one bracket and the other team in another bracket.  You lose the ability to brag, gloat, and be happy about making a correct pick if you picked the other alternative in another bracket.  No one cares if you picked the correct Final Four in your third of ten brackets.  That is lame.  

So there are some tips.  Follow what you like, disregard what you don’t, but just make sure you do one thing…Enjoy the Madness! 


Posted by Hatch 


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