How to pick a winning March Madness bracket
One in 9,223,372,036,854,777,808.
According to Forbes Magazine, those are the odds of selecting a perfect NCAA March Madness bracket. In fact, you have a better chance of winning an Academy Award or becoming the president of the United States (as seen in the 2016 election) than picking a perfect bracket.
So, unless you have a time machine or crystal ball, let me be the first to tell you an important tip when picking your bracket: You are not going to predict a perfect bracket.
Let me repeat: You are not going to predict a perfect bracket.
With that being said, there are many factors to consider when selecting a winning bracket to claim that $10 bet with your overly confident roommate or earn bragging rights that make it acceptable to tell your friends 100 times how you’re the smartest one in the group.
Step 1: Do your research
Don’t overthink this process. That means don’t try to find some random statistic that will convince you that you know something everyone else doesn’t. Wins on the road against teams with yellow jerseys or anything similar to that is NOT an important statistic.
Keep it simple. If a team appears to be much better than the other team in terms of record and ranking, then odds are they are the better team. Upsets will always happen to the best of teams during this tournament, but don’t go predicting random upsets against teams who are simply better than the other.
The best thing to look at is how each team has been doing as they enter a tournament. If a team enters the madness on a recent roll or having just won their conference championship, there’s a better chance that they will carry that mojo through the tournament.
I consider myself a diehard Michigan State fan, but watch out for the Wolverines of the University of Michigan. Not only did they upset MSU and Purdue to collect the Big Ten Tournament Championship, but they did it in convincing fashion.
There are always those other random stats that will help you decide if you’re somewhat clueless, too, like BPI (Basketball Power Index), offensive/defensive efficiency, conference record, etc. One underrated aspect is the location of the events. If a team is within a close radius of their home base, then you have to factor in the feel of home-court advantage.
And if you’re looking for something much, much easier, look up who has the cooler mascot or team colors. This isn’t the best or smartest option if your bracket has money on the line, but it might be the last resort when you're deciding the games you're just not sure about.
Step 2: Trust your gut
Yes, you will not get a perfect bracket, but the key is acting like you will.
Once you begin to overthink your picks, you’ve already lost the battle. If the team you chose first but switched out right before the submission deadline loses that game, you’ll find yourself staring into a mirror questioning your entire existence. Trust me, I’ve been there before.
Save yourself the trouble and self-doubt. If a team initially sticks out to you as clear winner, there must’ve been something that told you that. Trust yourself. Give yourself that cocky Kanye West ego if need be.
If confidence is an issue when you're selecting your picks, put on some swagger-filled music in the background. It not only helps boost confidence, but it makes you feel like a total badass clicking those winning buttons. I prefer “X Gon’ Give It to Ya” by DMX.
Step 3: Sit back and watch
Once you submit and the tournament begins, there’s nothing else you can do but watch and root for your picks to prove your bracket.
If this seems too calm for you, pick up a new superstition that will convince you that what you’re doing is somehow helping your team hundreds of miles away. Whether it’s wearing a lucky hat, sitting in the same spot on the couch or not showering until your team loses (not recommended), anything to convince you that you're making an impact on the results will help.
But most importantly, just remember that you’re not going to get a perfect bracket. Have fun, watch with some of your closest friends, crack open a nice beverage and relax. This is by far the most exciting period of the year for any sports fan.
Good luck, and may the odds be ever in your favor.