March Madness officially tips off this week, meaning you’ll have to answer one important question between now and then: How are you going to fill out your NCAA bracket?
By the end of Selection Sunday, the invitations will have been sent and the dance cards will have been filled, then the madness will tip off this week, which means you’ve got some important decisions to make between now and then.
Filling out your bracket for the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament is crucial to winning your office pool or earning bragging rights, so it’s a process not to be taken lightly.
Some matchups are fairly easy to pick, while you just have to go with your gut—or the better mascot or Cinderella story—in predicting some of the upsets that have become such a hallmark of the tournament.
I have several teams I (almost) always pick against. They’re the teams I just can’t cheer for given a certain SEC team allegiance, teams that have busted my bracket wide open on more than one occasion and teams that I’ve had good luck picking against in the past.
But even with my approach that’s a mix of loose science and just plain guessing, there’s really no telling what’s going to happen these next couple of weeks. The biggest team could fall, and the smallest school could win it all. That’s what makes it worth watching.
In the spirit of the madness that’s about to befall us, here are five March Madness facts that, whether they help you fill out your bracket or not, are still good to know.
1. Stick with the No. 1’s, at least in the first round. That’s because, as much as we might root for the underdog, no No. 16 seed has ever topped its opponent and advanced to the next round. As the tourney wears on, however, the No. 1 seed has an almost even chance of winning—or losing—in the semifinal game.
2. It’s not all about the SEC. Looking back over past champions, there’s nearly equal representation among the Big East, ACC, SEC and Big Ten. But, there was a period under legendary coach John Wooden when the UCLA Bruins cut down the nets an impressive seven years in a row.
3. The 5-12 upset hype is more fiction than fact. In the single-elimination tournament design, upsets are bound to happen, and every year analysts and prognosticators seem to hype up the 5-12 matchup as the common one. However, it only happens about 30 percent of the time, according to recent research.
4. Don’t obsess over building the perfect bracket. The odds are stacked against you here, as you have a 1 in over 18 quintillion chance of scoring the perfect bracket. So, no matter how much you read Sports Illustrated or study all the bracketology that’s out there, there’s no exact science to the madness.
5. Speaking of the madness, it hasn’t always been around. Well, not in relation to the college game anyway. The term “March Madness” was first used in 1939 (coincidentally when the NCAA tourney began) to describe the state of Illinois’ high school basketball tournament. Broadcaster Brent Musburger was the first to apply the tournament’s now nearly synonymous term to the college game in 1982.