If you are looking for strategies to win your NCAA Basketball bracket, here they are! These strategies are geared toward brackets that give bonus points for picking lower seeds.
The 2013 NCAA Basketball Tournament is fast approaching, as the First Four will be played in Dayton, OH as usual on Tuesday and Wednesday, March 19-20, leading to the main round of 64, which is now referred to as the second round and begins on Thursday, Marc 21. Besides all of the NCAA Basketball picks on the games themselves, millions of people will also be participating in the ever so popular bracket contests, and it is our job to help you win those pools.

We hope!

Now practically all brackets begin with the second round that starts on Thursday, with teams that participated in the First Four entered as an entry. Four example, if VCU faces USC in the First Four, they will be considered an entry labeled “VCU/USC Winner” for bracket purposes and if you pick the entry to win going forward, you get credit for the points regardless of which team actually won that First Four game.

While that is a standard rule, other rules regarding bracket contests vary. It is important to note that the remainder of this article is for contests that give bonus points for picking lower seeded teams to win. If you play in a “straight” bracket that does not give bonus points, then it will look a lot “chalkier” and would not be nearly as interesting, which is why we seek out brackets that give seed bonuses such as the one coming soon to SBR Forum, so stay tuned!

NCAA Basketball Bracket PicksWhen playing in brackets that give seed bonuses, it is important to think backwards (or is that think forward?) and predict your Sweet 16 first! You will see the reasoning for this later on. Now the means for selecting your Sweet 16 may vary, but do not get too wild. If you end up with the top four seeds in each region, so be it. In fact, we suggest automatically taking the top two seeds in each region to reach the Sweet 16.

So that leaves eight slots that should be “handicapped”. One method for doing this is looking at the NCAA Tournament future odds for each region before the tournament begins. These are usually up fairly early at 5 Dimes, so you can check there on Monday, March 18th. Look at the specific odds for each region, and if the three seed is one of the top three choices, it should automatically be plugged in to you Sweet 16.

If not, see how close the odds are for the three and six seeds, as that would be the second round matchup if the seeding holds up. Similarly, if the four seed is one of the top three choices, it automatically goes to your Sweet 16. If not, compare the odds of the four and five seeds.

Another method for filling out the final eight Sweet 16 spots is using one of the popular rating services such as the Pomeroy Ratings or the Sagarin Ratings. You can simply go down the line and take the higher rated team between the three and six seeds and also between the four and five seeds.

So what happens if a team seeded seventh or higher reaches the Sweet 16? Yes, this happens seemingly every year, but at least you can take comfort in the fact that many other people in your pool probably had the same high seeds knocked out as you did which levels the playing field. You should still be in good shape as long as your eventual winner and three of your Final Four is in tact.

Now once you “think” you have your Sweet 16 set, one final step is to make sure none of those 16 teams are underdogs in their first game, or even small favorites of -3 or less. You probably need not worry if you have the top four seeds in a region, but it does not hurt to check just in case.

Once you are satisfied with your Sweet 16, keep going forward all the way to your champion. This is where handicapping comes in as the seeding becomes almost irrelevant. Remember that only once since the seeding process began have all four number one seeds gone to the Final Four, only six times have two one seeds met in the NCAA Championship Game and only three overall one seeds (top ranked team in country before tournament) have won it all.

The point is that it is not as easy as simply taking the higher seeded teams from the Sweet 16 onward, but do take note that only twice has no number one seed reached the Final Four, so again, there is a fine line between taking calculated risks and being reckless.
 
So how do you project your bracket from the Sweet 16 on? The simplest answer is to use the same method you used to project your Sweet 16 to begin with, although if all four number one seeds are favored to win their region on the future odds, then you are probably better off using either Pomeroy or Sagarin. Take note that not all one seeds were favored at 5 Dimes last season and the one non-one seeded favorite, second seeded Ohio State, did make the Final Four.

So now that you are satisfied with the most important part of the bracket where the most bracket points will be awarded, and after you have figured out the pool tiebreaker if there is one, which is usually total points in the Championship Game, you are now ready to go back and fill in the first two rounds prior to the Sweet 16.

This is an easy two-step process. First you obviously take your Sweet 16 teams to win their first two games, and by doing so, you have already completely filled out the third round games (Round of 32). Then, in the 16 remaining games in the second round (first round of the contest), you pick the underdog (seed wise) in every game!

This is why we seek out brackets that give out bonus points for taking the higher numbered seeds, as the approach would be different if it was a straight bracket with no bonuses. So why pick the upsets? Well, for starters, consider that most pools only give one point for picking the winners in the Round of 64, so if you are wrong, it only costs you one point as you had whoever wins those games losing to your Sweet 16 team in the next round anyway.

So even if you only get only a few upsets right, it would still net you more points than getting one point per correct better seed. Then there is the math. If you ended up taking the top four seeds to reach the Sweet 16, consider how the five through eight seeds have historically done in the Round of 64:

5 seed over 12 seed, 66 percent
6 seed over 11 seed, 68 percent
7 seed over 10 seed, 60 percent
8 seed over 9 seed, 46 percent

As you can see, while the five to seven seeds win a majority of the time, there are enough upsets where going for the added seven, five or three bonus points makes sense.

So there you have it! Just remember to give up credit when you win your office pool or online bracket. Good luck and, most importantly, have fun.