Sixty eight teams from across the country embark on the crazy, unpredictable two-week journey that is the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship, more commonly known as March Madness and it all starts today (Tuesday, March 17). Let the madness begin!
At the end of the tournament, just one team will remain standing and all indications point to Kentucky as being that team. But, it’s called madness for a reason and that means any team, even the undisputed first overall seed, could fall victim to an upset.
The Perfect Bracket
Let’s dispel that notion right now. No, you will not get a perfect bracket. In fact, if there were betting odds on if you would get a perfect bracket, I’d put a lot of money on it not happening. Why am I so confident? Because no one has ever done it.
The truth is, your bracket will be littered with imperfections, some manifesting in the first round, others falling apart in time for the Sweet 16. It’s incredibly difficult to get a perfect region, let alone a perfect bracket. All that said however, here are some general tips to consider that will help you get as close to perfection as the average bracketer, aka a little over 70% correct, as possible.
1) The 12/5 Upset is No Myth and This Year, Its Likely to Be SFA Over Utah
It’s the most common March Madness upset so chances are, you have heard of a little thing called the “12/5 Upset.” In fact, chances are you have heard it mentioned so many times, you’re probably thinking it’s a cliché. Well, I can tell you from a historical standpoint, the notion that every year a 12-seed will upset a 5-seed is anything but just a myth or cliché.
In all, there have been 44 twelve seeds to defeat five seeds. In the last 25 years, only twice has the men’s tournament been completed without one of these upsets, the most recent of which was in 2007. Since then, the 12s have been dominant, winning 15 of the 28 games including the stunning 6-2 since 2013.
There is really little upside to being a #5 seed. This year, that distinction belongs to West Virginia, Arkansas, Northern Iowa and Utah. Of the four, Utah (against Stephen F. Austin) is probably the most vulnerable.
Not only did the SFA Lumberjacks rank 19th in the nation in total points and ninth in the nation in points per possession, they also lead the country with over 17 assists per game. The one thing going against them right now is their strength of schedule, which was 269th in the nation, which ranks among the lowest of the 68 tournament teams. However, the reason why they have a nationally recognizable name to some extent is because of last year when as a #12 seed they defeated #5 VCU in the first round of the tournament. So, if anyone knows how to pull off a 12/5, it is Stephen F. Austin.
Oh and FYI, keep your eye on the 11/6 upsets as well, There have been 41 in the history of the tournament including 10-of-20 in the past five years.
2) Take Kentucky to the Championship But Don’t Forget about the “Other” Wildcats
Very infrequently throughout history does a team like Kentucky come along. When it does happen however, rest assured that team will ride victoriously all the way to the championship, likely even winning it. Once again, history supports Kentucky’s case.
The undefeated Kentucky Wildcats are being compared to Tiger Woods in his early days, meaning when it comes to predicting the winner, just like Tiger was, it is Kentucky against the field. Of course, there are other teams with great chances, and ironically enough, two of the three are also Wildcats. According to a calculated efficiency metric, three of the teams with the best chance to win it all, Kentucky included, are Wildcats, with Villanova and Arizona rounding out the top. The other team included are the Badgers of Wisconsin.
These four teams have a lot in common, namely their propensity for scoring. Both Wisconsin and Villanova are scorers, one from the paint, the other from beyond the arc. Kentucky of course can score as well and so can Arizona, although their best asset is defense.
These cats and badgers could very well make up the Final Four. In this group, only Arizona is not a #1 seed, which isn’t too surprising because the last and only time all #1 seeds reached the Final Four was 2008. Under the efficiency metric, Duke would be the only #1 seed absent. Although, one should be wary of picking three #1 seeds to reach the Final Four. It’s only happened once, 2008, in the past 25 years. In fact, even two #1s is a bit risky as that has only been done four times since 2003.
Obviously if you are going to bet on only one of those #1 seeds, Kentucky is an absolute no-brainer. If you are betting on two however, go with Wisconsin. Arizona is in the way but the matchup is more favorable than Villanova getting past Virginia or Duke getting past Gonzaga.
3) Pick Your Cinderella and Ride Them Far, But not too Far
Everybody likes to boast about being the one person of all of their friends who had the foresight to pick #11 VCU to go all the way to the Final Four. It defied logic and reason but you stuck with it and even though the rest of your bracket may have suffered, it doesn’t matter. You went bold and bold paid off.
Well, there is some truth to that. Every year, unfailingly, there is a mid major team that goes from double digit seed to Cinderella story. But like all Cinderella stories, theirs come to an inevitable end. Before that Final Four pinnacle however, it is worth taking the journey.
So will it be UAB this year or Davidson? Or maybe Boise State, Indiana or Wyoming? Whoever you end up picking, just go with the risk. There is nothing to gain to ride one of those upset teams just into the second or third round. If you plan on picking the Cinderella, take them to the ball, or at least the Elite Eight.
March Madness Betting Picks Verdict
The sportsbooks have this very lopsided making Kentucky not much under a 50% chance of winning the whole thing. Kentucky are +110 (11/10) with Bovada, +120 with 5Dimes and Intertops and best at +125 with BetOnline. It is then a big leap in the betting odds to around 8/1 for the second favorite, Arizona.
- You can be sure the sportsbooks want to see red-hot Kentucky fail, but despite the skinny odds I think we need to be on side with the favorite and recommend taking the +125 with BetOnline.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.