It's that time of year again!
Days filled with basketball, your emotions ruled by a sheet of paper, and bragging rights (and maybe some other things) are on the line with your friends.
It's March Madness time, though you're not sure if its called that because of all the games or because you actually go mad when your national title pick gets upset on a buzzer beater in the first round—again. So to make these next three weeks as painless as possible, here are some tips to help you win your bracket pool and, most importantly, keep you sane.
1) Go with your gut
Don't over-think it! Before you get all caught up in advanced metrics, shooting percentages vs. players under 6'4", what they ate for breakfast, etc., just ask yourself who you think would win.
Chances are, you know off the top of your head already who you would pick and are obsessing over the little things to back your pick up. You don't need that! Being right because Player A doesn't play well against teams that wear blue jerseys is the same as being right because you flipped a coin.
Save those things for when you really can't decide, but don't base your bracket on them.
2) Don't change picks later
This is where you get yourself into trouble.
There's a toss-up game and you've made your pick, but after sleeping on it you've convinced yourself that you're horribly, horribly wrong, so you change your pick.
Then when the game actually happens, the team you originally picked wins in a blowout and you're kicking yourself for switching teams.
Remember, it's always worse to change from a winner to a loser than to just pick a loser. That sanity I was talking about? This will help you keep it, and you'll be right more often than not.
3) Upsets happen, Cinderella runs don't
Everyone remembers George Mason and VCU right? You know why? Because low seeds don't make those incredible runs very often.
But do you remember the 13- and 14-seeds that pulled big upsets last year but lost the next round? Those first rounds upsets happen all the time—just don't mistake them with Cinderella runs to the Final Four.
So sprinkle a couple of 5/12 upsets with maybe one or two 4/13 and 3/14 upsets, but you'll regret picking those teams to go much further than one or two upsets. That's because...
4) Higher seeds are higher seeds for a reason
Upsets are nice, but as the field of 68 keeps on shrinking, the higher seeds and better teams will be the ones that last. They have the most talent and have proven themselves, which is the reason for their high seed.
While seeds might not be the end all and be all, they're a good indication of the teams that have performed the strongest in big, tournament-like games. Chances are they'll be able to handle themselves better in those bigger games due to that experience.
5) It's all about matchups
How teams do in the tournament, especially in the early rounds, often have to do less with seeds and more with how teams matchup with each other.
Upsets usually occur when a younger, higher-ranked team faces an experienced lower-ranked team that plays a different style and tempo, or when a smaller team faces a much bigger team. These are things to keep your eye on when you're trying to pick those few upsets that will inevitably happen.
So get to picking everybody, and remember - have some fun! After all, we only get to do this once a year.
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