Every year, over 100 million people fill out an NCAA March Madness Bracket and wager an estimated $3 billion playing online or in March Madness office pools. Even people that don’t watch a single NCAA college basketball game will take part in the "madness" by filling out a bracket contest. Often, most casual players trust the tips and advice from the "preview show" on CBS, ESPN or other sports outlets the weekend before the games start without much thought or reason. This is not the way to win big money...you need a game plan.
Below, is our best NCAA March Madness bracket tips as well as some important stats to help you fill out a winning bracket.
March Madness Bracket Tips and Advice
1) Look To The Past For Future Predictions
There is a reason why the top seeded teams in the tournament are the top-seeded teams…they are better than the others! Here are some facts: in over 130 matchups since 1985, no 16th seed has ever beaten a #1 seed. The 15th seed has only ever beaten the #2 seed six times in over 130 attempts. We all love a big upset, but in reality, it rarely ever happens. Our top March Madness bracket tip is to make sure you choose the #1 and #2 seeds to move on past the 1st round, play the odds while others chase miracles.
2) The Cinderella Team, Who Will It Be?
Every year a "few" lower seeded teams knock off a higher seed, the problem is trying to pick these is like picking a needle in a haystack. If you are going to pick an upset, look at the 12th seed knocking off a #5 seed. Since 1985 the 12th seed has won over 35% of the total games, and in 2012 and 2016 there were 2 of these upsets. A 12 beating a 5 has become almost a given every year in the March Madness tournament (there have only been 4 years where all 5th seeds made it through to the second round). Make sure that the #12 seed you do pick though is hot going into the tourney. Also be wary, once the 12 seed does win, they rarely move on to the Sweet 16.
3) The Clock Will Strike Midnight On Cinderella
Cinderella only stays in the tournament for so long. The lowest seed to ever reach a Final Four was an 11th seed. Just because you pick an underdog for the 1st round upset doesn’t make them a team of destiny. Our advice: make sure your Final Four doesn't include any #12, #13, #14, #15 or #16 seeds - it just won't happen, at least not yet anyways. Once again go with the odds not against them.
4) Injuries and Suspensions Will Happen
On occasion a player will get suspended for academic or other violations just as the NCAA tournament is about to start. If the player is an important piece, their team may be ripe for a 1st round knockout. Injuries can derail a March Madness bracket as well, so the best advice is to check out injury reports before filling out your bracket. It seems so simple but it is often overlooked by the casual player just randomly filling out a bracket. It takes two seconds to check an injury report.
5) Know Your Bracket Rules and Scoring
Most NCAA March Madness Bracket pools have different scoring systems - some just give you points for wins, some give bonuses in later rounds and some give points based on the seeding of winning teams. Ultimately, if you can pick all the winners, the point system won’t matter. But knowing the scoring system before you make your picks is a no brainer that may help make some tough decisions easier when filling out your March Madness bracket contest.
6) The Odds Makers Know More Then You
Did you know that just because a team is a higher seed doesn’t mean they are favored to win? If a 10th seed is playing a 7th seed, but a sportsbook like Bovada has the 10th seed favored in the point spread, it may be a sign that the #10 seed is actually the better team at the moment. Cross-reference the odds from the sportsbooks against the matchups and check if there are any anomalies. This is a very, very important March Madness tip. The majority of people who fill out a bracket just assume the lower seed is always the favored team to win.
7) Don't Pick All The Lowest Seeds
Following up on our last tip, many first timers filling out a bracket will simply pick all the low seeds to beat the high ones and will end up with all four #1 seeds in the Final Four. Only once since 1985 have all four #1 seeded teams made it to the Final Four, so the odds are that it won’t happen this year either. Look for some of the #2 or #3 seeds to make the Final Four with maybe one or two of the #1 seeds. Usually there is not a big difference between the top 3 seeds in a region in terms of talent and skill. You will be looking for around 5 to 6 upsets from the 10 seeds and higher, history shows that around on average how many happen in the 1st round.
Filling out a March Madness Bracket is one of the best betting traditions every year for thousands of pool players but you need to use some strategies to get the job done, that is you actually want to win money. If you follow our advice and tips above, the odds of you winning your March Madness office pool will go up dramatically over the casual player who blindly fills out a bracket.