Updated: Tuesday, March 18, 2014 9:19 AM PST

March Madness: Tips for Completing Your NCAA Tournament Brackets

NCAA tournament brackets are part art and part science, but there are some numbers and trends that can assist you in filling out your brackets

Completing NCAA tournament brackets is part art and part science. Make no mistake, however, it mostly art. Your chances of correctly picking every game in the NCAA basketball tournament are 1 in 5.7 billion. Fortunately, there are some numbers and trends that can assist you in filling out your brackets.

  • From 1991-2005, the championship has been won 12 out of 15 times by a team from the ACC, Big Ten or SEC.
  • If you take the tournament seedings into account, the total of the seedings for the Final Four teams should be 10 or less. For example, if the seedings for the teams in the Final Four were 1, 3, 2 and 4, the total would be ten. Ideally, you want the total of the seedings to be 8, 9, or 10.
  • The number one seeded teams are more likely to lose in the Final Four than in any other round. Top seeds are 19-17 in the Final Four as opposed to 214-26 in the first three rounds.
  • A number 16 seed has never beaten a number one seed. Don't try to get cute predicting an upset of this magnitude. It just won't happen.
  • Predicting upsets is the name of the game, but don't let yourself get upset happy. This usually occurs when somebody is predicting their hometown or favorite team to advance further than they have a right to.
  • It is highly unlikely that all four number one seeded teams will make it to the Final Four. It is, on the other hand, extremely likely that at least one number one seed will make it to the Final Four.
  • The top three seeded teams are very, very powerful in the NCAA Tournament. Top three seeds have won 18 of the last 21 titles.
  • Beyond the top 3 seedings, most teams do not have a shot at the National Title. One title has been won by a number 4, 6 and 8 respectively. No other seed has won the tournament.
  • Use discretion in predicting your upsets. It is a given that upsets will occur. That is the beauty of the NCAA Tournament. It is what the Big Dance is all about. Okay, we know that a number 12, 13 or 14 seed will win at least one game on Thursday or Friday of the opening round. The trick is finding that upset team. Picking NCAA Tournament upsets is a tricky business. If you are right, you can be a front-runner to win your pool. The drawback is that if you are wrong, and the team you picked to lose in upset fashion advances to the Sweet Sixteen or beyond, you are likely done in your pool.
  • If you are determined to pick a big 1st round tournament upset or two, we recommend that you look to that team's opponent in the second round. If, for example, you look and see that neither team in your upset game (the 5 vs. 12 game) can beat the number 4 seed in the next round, then go ahead and shoot for the upset knowing that the number 5 seed isn't likely to hurt you in the later rounds.
  • Since the tournament went to the current 64 team format in 1985, a number 11 seed has made it to the Final Four one time. In that same time, there has never been a 7, 9 or 10 seed in the Final Four.
  • Number 9 seeds are important. Number 9 seeds have actually won more games than they have lost against the number 8 seeds, 46-38. They fare much worse in the 2nd round, however, winning only 3 games and losing 43. Of course, this has a lot to do with the fact that the winner of the 8 vs. 9 game is rewarded with a match-up against the number 1 seed in their region.
  • The bottom seeds, seeds 13-16 do not fare well in the tournament, having won just 5 2nd round games in the past 21 years (1985-2005).
  • If you are going to play a longshot, the 12th seeded teams are the way to go. Since 1985, number 12 seeds have won 27 first round games and are 14-12 in the second round.
  • Number 11 seeds are 25-59 in the 1st round and 10-15 in the 2nd round.
  • Beware of teams with injuries. Tournament games are won by good teams with star players. A team will have a very difficult time when a key player is injured.
  • Avoid sentimental favorites. There are great story lines to every NCAA Tournament. Remember, once the adrenaline wears off, it is the talented and well coached teams that win.
  • Look for teams with experience. In today's college basketball, the best teams lack experience. This is, of course, due to the fact that the best players leave early for the NBA. This provides an excellent opportunity for senior laden teams to flourish in the tournament. Coaching experience is also important. Coaches with tournament experience know how to prepare their teams for these important games.

The chart below shows how each seed has done in the NCAA Tournament from 1985-2005. In 1985 the tournament went to its present 64-team format.

1st Round 2nd Round Sweet 16 Elite 8 Final 4 Title Total
184-0172-12158-14136-22119-17112-71281-72
280-4253-27238-15218-2029-924-52202-80
370-14339-31319-20311-837-432-53148-82
467-17437-30413-2448-542-641-1*4128-83
557-27530-2755-2554-152-250-2598-84
659-25633-26612-2163-962-161-1**6110-83
751-33714-3776-870-67 7 771-84
838-4689-2986-383-381-281-0***858-83
946-3893-4391-290-19 9 950-84
1033-511017-16106-11100-610 10 1056-84
1125-591110-15113-7111-2110-111 1139-84
1227-571214-13121-13120-112 12 1242-84
1317-67133-14130-313 13 13 1320-84
1414-70142-12140-214 14 14 1416-84
154-80150-415 15 15 15 154-84
160-8416 16 16 16 16 160-84

* Arizona - 1997   ** Kansas - 1988   *** Villanova - 1985

College Basketball and March Madness Betting Menu