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The NCAA Tournament bracket has been unveiled, so it’s time to sharpen your pencils, get to work and make some money.Here are 10 things to know before filling out the sheet for your office pool.
1. Know your scoring system. If you’re in a standard-format pool that rewards one point for a Round of 64 win, two points for the Round of 32, and so on, don’t pick a lot of upsets. It doesn’t pay. As long as you get two or three Final Four teams and the champ, you’ll be in the hunt.
Other pools reward risk-takers, giving twice the points when you correctly pick a lower seed to win. Some use a “multiplier” in which a No. 1 seed earns one point for a victory, while a No. 11 seed earns 11 points. In those pools, it pays to take chances.
2. If you haven’t heard of Georgia Tech professors Joel Sokol and Paul Kvam, now’s the time to get familiar with them. They came up with a formula that’s proven remarkably accurate for predicting wins and losses in the NCAA Tournament. It’s called LRMC, for “Logistic Regression/Markov Chain Model.” It factors in margin of victory, strength of schedule and road wins.
Their bracket is up, and the professors have No. 3 seed Florida beating No. 1-seed Gonzaga for the title. The profs have three No. 1 seeds in the Final Four: Gonzaga, Louisville and Indiana.
3. Winning a conference tournament is not essential. Five of the last 15 national champs won the title after losing in their conference tourney: Kentucky (2012), North Carolina (2009, 2005), Syracuse (2003) and Maryland (2002). But no team has won it all after losing its conference tourney opener. That spells doom for No. 2 seed Duke and No. 3 Marquette, which both went down early last week.
4. Vegas knows best. Bookmakers have the best power ratings around, and their lines are better indicators of a team’s strength than its seeding is. But just two lower-seeded teams, No. 9 Missouri and No. 11 Minnesota, are favoured over higher seeds. Mizzou opened as a 2-point favourite over No. 8 seed Colorado State, and the Golden Gophers opened as 2.5-point faves over No. 6 UCLA.
The Linemakers’ Power Ratings: How the tournament teams stack up
5. The Mountain West is still searching for respect. The MWC was the fifth-best conference, just barely behind the ACC and ahead of the Pac-12, SEC, and Atlantic 10, according to Jeff Sagarin’s ratings. The Mountain West sent five teams to the tourney: New Mexico, UNLV, Colorado State, Boise State and San Diego State. But before you make some chic picks, remember the conference is 15-33 in the NCAA Tournament and has never sent a team to the Elite Eight.
6. Defensive efficiency matters. Bleacher Report noted that since analyst Ken Pomeroy started computing adjusted defensive efficiency in 2003, a team ranked 19th or better in that category – and usually in the top 10 – has won the tournament. Louisville, Florida, Georgetown, Wisconsin and Kansas enter the tourney as the top five in that stat.
7. Everyone knows a No. 16 seed has never beaten a No. 1. The little guys are 0-for-112 and counting. Only seven Nos. 14 or 15 seeds have won a tournament game in the last 13 years, and two of those came last year when 15-seeds Lehigh and Norfolk State pulled off stunners over Duke and Missouri, respectively. In contrast, a No. 12 seed has made the Round of 32 in 11 of the past 12 years.
8. Rick Pitino doesn’t leave early. This is Pitino’s sixth tournament coaching the No. 1 overall seed (four at Kentucky, two at Louisville), ESPN.com notes. The previous five won the championship once (1996), lost in the title game once, reached the Final Four once and got eliminated twice in the Elite Eight. And only one of those teams, the 1997 Kentucky squad, lost to a team seeded lower than No. 2.
9. Trust your gut. Sure, we’ve just given you a bunch of predictive, statistical info, but don’t rely solely on someone else’s expertise. Where’s the fun in that? Take ownership. Show conviction in a team you believe in, regardless of what experts say. When that squad comes through, you’ll feel a deep sense of satisfaction.
10. An intelligent sleeper pick comes from Butler coach Brad Stevens. He knows what it takes to go deep in the tournament (he led Butler to the finals in 2010 and 2011), and he likes Saint Louis this year. The fourth-seeded Billikens play the kind of basketball that wears well in March and April.
“I’ve said all year to anyone who would listen to me, and even people who wouldn’t, how good Saint Louis is,” Stevens said. “They’re a legitimate contender to win the whole thing. I believe that wholeheartedly.
“On pure strength, there’s no one better than these guys,” Stevens added. “I know everyone is going to be chasing Indiana in the tournament, but Saint Louis is old. They’ve been through it, they’ve done it, and they are men. They are men.”
NCAA Tournament: Print your bracket
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