Want To Build The Perfect March Madness Bracket?

Posted on March 2, 2022

Statistically, it’s impossible. Usually, by the second day of the tournament, ESPN makes a big announcement that there is no one left with a perfect bracket entered in its contest.

However, there are ways to tilt your bracket to make it rise to the top of the pool. The Final Four and National Championship game will take place at the Caesars Superdome in New Orleans, on Apr. 2 and Apr. 4.

There will be numerous ways to bet on March Madness at one of the prominent Louisiana sportsbooks.
For now, let’s talk about what makes a good bracket.

First things first

Before, we move on, just know we’re going to classify an upset as any win by a lower seed. That first day of the NCAA Tournament, (no, we aren’t counting the First Four games in Dayton) is a religious holiday for hoops junkies.

It always seems like that first day, this year it’s Mar. 17, is full of upsets and buzzer-beaters. It’s not the case.

In the last five tournaments – remember there was no tournament in 2020 – there have been 21 upsets by seed in the first round on day one, and 26 on day two.

What’s the best seed to pop an upset?

Of those 47 first-round upsets in the last five NCAA Tournaments, 12 have been by the ninth seed, which makes sense.

Eight have been by the 10 seed, 11 by the 11 seed, six by the 12 seed, five by the 13 seed, two each by the 14 and 15th seed. And the miraculous one by the 16 seed in 2018 when the University of Maryland-Baltimore County beat Virginia.

So what does that tell us? It tells us that eight seeds still usually beat the nine seed, but the 11 seed….if you’re looking for a team or two to spring an upset find an 11 seed.

Coming from out of town?

One of the old standbys to spot a first-round upset in the NCAA Tournament was to look at where the teams were coming from and where the game was played.

The logic was that the team coming from a farther distance would struggle and lose more often. However, that’s not the case.

Of the last 47 first-round upsets, we calculated the distance from campus to the site of the game and guess what? Being from farther away was better!

29 of the teams that were from a greater distance won the game. The closer school won 18 times. Maybe they all travel first class.

Now it’s getting sweet

Getting through the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament sends you to the Sweet 16, and the regional semifinals. Unfortunately, this is where most Cinderella runs end.

In 2021, two double-digit seeds made the Sweet 16, and that’s about average. Teams just can’t maintain the momentum.

Also, with at least three days in between games, the teams have a chance to scout and prepare for their opponent. Remember, there’s only one day between first and second-round games.

In 2019, only one double-digit seed, Oregon, reached the Sweet 16. Then in 2018 and 2016, it was two. In 2017 it was one.

So when you’re filling out your bracket, look for approximately nine upsets in the first round, but ride only one or two underdogs into the Sweet 16.

A Final Four reckoning

You just might want to keep that double-digit seed rolling to the Final Four. In 2021, 11th seeded UCLA made it.

In 2018 it was 11th seeded Loyola Chicago (something about the 11th seed seems lucky). Then in 2016, it was Syracuse as the 10 seed.

Every year college basketball announcers say the same thing: the tournament is more competitive and there’s more parity than ever. Well, it’s true, but only to an extent.

Don’t put three 10 seeds in your Final Four in your bracket.

The seeds of a champion

One other way to build a bracket is to start with your champion and work your way backward. If you’re going to use that method, keep in mind that 23 times the NCAA Champion has been a one seed.

Five times the champion has been a two seed, four times a three seed, and one time each a four, six, seventh or eighth seed.

The lowest-seeded team to ever win the NCAA title was Villanova as the eighth seed in 1985.

Final lessons learned

If you want to play by the averages in your bracket, while it may not be as fun, expect the champion to be either a one or two seed. Where you can make your money is in those early rounds.

There are always upsets. Always.

West Coast teams always seem to get disrespected by the NCAA Tournament committee seed-wise, but there is no common theme whether small conference teams pull upsets any more than bigger conference teams do.

But realize that an underdogs’ magic usually runs out quickly in the NCAA Tournament.

NCAA Tournament finals in Louisiana

2012: Kentucky 67, Kansas 59

The Wildcats won their eighth national title as Doron Lamb led the way with 22 points.

2003: Syracuse 81, Kansas 78

Then-freshman Carmelo Anthony had 20 points and 10 rebounds as Syracuse won its only national title.

1993: North Carolina 77, Michigan 71

The Chris Webber Timeout game. Webber, the Michigan star, mistakenly called a timeout near the end of the game when his team didn’t have one resulting in a technical foul.

1987: Indiana 74, Syracuse 73

Keith Smart hit a baseline jumper in the final seconds to lift the Hoosiers to the title. Smart is now an assistant coach at the University of Arkansas.

1982: North Carolina 63, Georgetown 62

A young guard for the Tar Heels named Michael Jordan hit the game-winner. Jordan would go on to an NBA Hall of Fame career.

Photo by bastinda18 / Shutterstock.com
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Darren Cooper

Darren Cooper was born and raised in Southern Louisiana, just a short pirogue ride away from New Orleans. He started his journalism career at the New Orleans Times-Picayune and has been a writer and columnist in New Jersey since 1998. He's won 14 statewide press awards and earned his first Associated Press Sports Editors Top 10 award in 2022.

View all posts by Darren Cooper