It’s the best time of the sporting year. There’s nothing like when seasoned college basketball viewers and completely unaware fair-weather fans alike sit down after Selection Sunday and fill out their brackets. Since the NCAA hasn’t allowed every team in Division IA an automatic berth (yet), it’s still the perfect blend of fun and difficulty, even though the bracket itself isn’t symmetrical anymore.
Regardless of your experience, below is some advice on how to go about making your predictions in 2012. Also, since there is always a very, very slim chance my advice doesn’t work completely, don’t bet your tuition money and hunt down the referees in your anger.
Do Think Big
Somewhat unusually, I will advise to pick the winners of your March matchups by the strength of their inside game. Last year’s media frenzy of players like Kemba Walker and Jimmer Fredette is over. This year, it will be the big men who are shining. All around the NCAA, you see that the impact players are the ones down low or are at least tall enough to play inside if need be.
Kansas’ Thomas Robinson is racking up the stat sheet. Lanky big men like Anthony Davis of Kentucky and John Henson of North Carolina are making their presence known. And Ohio State center Jared Sullinger wants to forget about last year’s dismal loss in the Sweet 16 with a longer run in his sophomore year. The guards are always important, but maybe not as much as usual.
Don’t Fall in with the Crowd
Remember the objective – to ferociously beat everyone else in your bracket pool. You can’t do that by betting the same one or two teams that everyone else is to win the national championship. Throw in a surprise here and there (but none too shocking – don’t be a fool about it). If everyone is picking Kentucky, go with someone else. They’re probably just going with the No. 1-ranked team. And especially this year, the top-ranked teams are still far from perfect (there’s only one other ranked team in the SEC, No. 11 Florida, and you don’t want to throw all your eggs in one basket and watch another buzzer-beater doom the Wildcats like in their visit to Indiana.
Do Pick No. 12 Seeds
Statistically, out of all the favorites in the round of 64 to go down early, it is usually the No. 5 seed to kick the dust right out of the gate. Last year, just one No. 12 seed won, when Richmond overcame Vanderbilt late in the game. But No. 5 seeds seem to always fold early because of sloppy play, or simply the fact that they are playing nervous while the underdog has the chip on their shoulder. Either way, when picking upsets in the tournament, you rarely will get hurt by picking a few No. 5 seeds to go down.
Don’t Have Duke in the Final Four
I hate them, and you should, too! But seriously, put yourself in the shoes of a casual fan that’s just looking to have some fun in a pool with their friends. Of course he will be more likely to pick Duke to advance far into the tournament because of their notoriety and what will probably be a high seeding. But if they come across a team that can handle the Plumlees inside, and a few of the Duke shooters have an off-night, you’ll be ahead of the competition by crossing them out!
Don’t Let Your Own Team Get in the Way
Your intense, rabid fandom can sometimes blind you from making a rational decision. This phenomenon is multiplied tenfold if you’re betting on the No. 16 seed to topple Syracuse or Kentucky. We know you’re their biggest fan of the world, but no one will be impressed when they lose by 30 points and you’re left with a hole in your pocket.