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A Quick Guide to Filling Out your Bracket

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It is very difficult to go from Selection Sunday to the start of the Championship tournament on Thursday and feel really good about all 63 of your selections. Making that even harder are the teams that make a run from the First Four like VCU did a couple of years ago. How are you supposed to have a better chance of winning than everyone else?

Even the experts at ESPN and CBS don't get their official brackets right half of the time. Is there anything that can be done that isn't just luck? Yes, but unfortunately that may mean sorting out the vast amount of stats about at least 40 of the 64 teams. In addition to all of the information that I give you in the predictions page, you will need to know which teams struggle against a certain matchup or pace of the game. It can all be a little too overwhelming for most people who don't have that kind of time to dedicate.

However, I have come up with some simple steps that you can take to making it through the first weekend with your bracket intact:

Even though the past couple of tournaments may suggest otherwise, don't pick a lot of upsets in the first round. You may get Florida Gulf Coast over Georgetown correct, but you will probably get some really important teams wrong. If one of those teams makes it deep into the tournament, your chances of winning anything are shot. There were five legitimate upsets in the Round of 64 (at least a 5 seed getting beaten). This was unusually high, but there were still 15 teams that did not get upset.

It is far better to try to find the over-ranked teams that may get upset in the first couple of rounds, like New Mexico, Georgetown, Kansas State, and UNLV last year. Each team had a weakness that was exploited. Each team was talked about not making it very far. You don't have to have these types of teams losing in the first round, as long as you have them off of your bracket before the Elite 8 you should be fine.

In 2012, there were several upsets including 15 seed Lehigh over Duke, 15 seed Norfolk St over Missouri, 13 seed Ohio over Michigan, and a pair of 12 vs 5 upsets. In 2011, there were two legitimate upsets in the Round of 64 (12 seed Richmond and 13 seed Morehead St). In 2010, there were three legitimate upsets (14 seed Ohio, 13 seed Murray State and 12 seed Cornell). In 2009, there were four legitimate upsets (13 seed Cleveland St, 12 seed Arizona, 12 seed Wisconsin, 12 seed Western Kentucky). In 2008, there were four legitimate upsets (13 seed Siena, 13 seed San Diego, 12 seed Villanova, 12 seed Western Kentucky).

The 5 seed isn't a really big upset anymore. This is because one of the better Mid Majors is getting matched up against the good Power Conference teams. However, the 5 Seeds currently have a 66% winning percentage over the 12 seed. When it comes to the 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11 seeds, you are pretty much going to be on your own. The 6 Seeds currently win 68% of the time over the 11 Seed. The 7 Seeds currently win 60% of the time over the 10 seed. The 8 Seeds are only winning 46% of the time against the 9 Seed. This means you should have only one 5 Seed and one 6 Seed getting upset.

The next thing you should worry about is which teams will make the Sweet 16. Again, last year was an aberration with three double-digit seeds making the Sweet 16. However, there were so many upsets in the first round that two of these three featured Round of 32 matchups between double-digit seeds. The highest ranked seed to make the Elite 8 was the 7 Seed Florida, followed by the 4 Seed Louisville. The 2011 tournament featured even more upsets with VCU and Butler making the Round of 4. I wouldn't worry about trying to predict many double-digit teams to make it to the second weekend of the tournament.

Overall Advice for your Picks

Even if it is another year for major upsets in the College Basketball Tournament, you won't be any worse off then most people if you don't lose the wrong games. Your goal should be to get 12 of the Sweet 16 correct, 6 of the Elite 8 correct, 3 of the 4 Final teams correct and correctly guessing the Champion. Those numbers will be reduced if there is a dark horse like VCU or Butler. Sure, someone gets 15 out of 16 Sweet 16 correct, but it almost always takes them 10 brackets to do so.

I have often found that at least one of the four regions usually goes without an upset, while another region will usually look really messy. If you want advice, you should set up multiple brackets. Find the ones with the most likely upset possibilities and the least likely upset possibilities and have a clean region and an upset region in each.

Spend more time thinking about which team is going to win it all. You can't win any contest without correctly picking 6 out of 8 in the Elite 8, 3 out of 4 of the 4 Final teams, and getting the correct Champion. Many people spend too much time on the first and second rounds and just breeze through the most important picks towards the end of the tournament. Instead, work from your Champion backwards. Select the teams that you feel the best about first. Then, slowly go through the matchups and make some corrections based upon the stats, matchups or just your gut feeling.

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