SN’s MARCH MADNESS HQPrintable bracket | Predictor tool | Best bracket names | TicketsMarch Madness bracket: An idiot’s guide1. No No. 1 seed has ever lost to a 16 — oh, wait. One has lost. Virginia made us tipsters look like idiots last year when it was upset by UMBC. Could another upset happen this year? Sure. Will it? Nope. Virginia, Duke, North Carolina and Gonzaga are the top seeds in 2019. You can bet they will take care of business in the opening round.2. Other double-digit seeds are money, until they aren’t. We cannot be responsible for you picking an 11-seed to be in the championship game. Upsets do happen, but they usually happen early in the tournament, when fewer bracket points are awarded. The smart play is to predict no chaos after the second weekend.3. If you’re going to pick teams based on uniform color (because, sure, why not?), then blue is still the best choice. There are so many wonderful shades of blue, too. Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina and Villanova all have experience in wearing the crown, and they all wear blue. Is that why they’re called blue bloods? (No. No, it’s not.) If you’re partial to red, then there’s Iowa State, Wisconsin and Texas Tech. Oregon checks a lot of boxes besides blue and red.4. Oh, you’re a mascot picker, you say. Well, then, this is your year. There are some beauties in the field: Anteaters (California-Irvine), Billikens (Saint Louis), Catamounts (Vermont), Norse (Northern Kentucky), Racers (Murray State) and Terriers (Wofford), to list a handful. If you’re into funky AND functional, though, then stick with the classics: Blue Devils, Tar Heels, Jayhawks and Spartans.MORE BRACKET PICKS: DeCourcy (Duke) | Bender (Duke) | Fagan (Duke)5. The major conferences almost always win the prize. There are 32 conferences in NCAA Division I men’s basketball. Each one will have at least one representative at the Big Dance. That’s where the parity ends. Over the past 42 seasons, these six “power” conferences have been responsible for 37 of the championships— ACC: 12— Big East: 9— SEC: 7— Big Ten: 5— Pac-12: 2— Big 12: 2The exceptions have been Connecticut (formerly Big East) in 2014 (American); UNLV in 1990 (Big West); Louisville in 1980 and 1986 (Metro); and Marquette in 1977 (independent). So, no, the Atlantic Sun representative is not a good bet to go all the way.6. Don’t have your alma mater winning the whole thing unless it’s a true contender. College basketball and football are the only sports where fans’ use of “we” is acceptable, but don’t go overboard with it. Put aside sentiment, use your intellect and recognize your school’s limitations.7. Flipping a coin to decide an 8-9 matchup works just fine. The selection committee is signaling these teams are evenly matched, so there’s really no need to go crazy doing research. Devote the time to finding the right 12-seed to pick against a 5-seed.8. If you must use an exotic animal to make your picks, be creative (and careful) when you post the results to Insta or YouTube. OK, that wasn’t real bracket advice; that was mostly a request by those of us who might stumble upon your boa/cockatoo/octopus on the Gram and want to be entertained.BRACKET TIPS: KenPom | Play the odds | Predictor tool9. If you see a potential future matchup of teams with the same nickname (say, Wildcats vs. Wildcats), automatically write in that nickname. Better hope the person in charge of the pool doesn’t notice it in time and makes you choose.10. There are play-in, er, First Four, games that count in some brackets. These games are played on Tuesday and Wednesday and involve lesser conference champs and bubble teams. None of these teams will win the NCAA Tournament. It’s your money and your NCAA Tournament bracket, so we can’t really tell you what to do with either one. But if you don’t want to throw away your cash (or catch more grief than usual from your friends), you might want to take the following bits of advice to heart.In what has become an annual thing, Sporting News presents its idiot’s guide to filling out an NCAA Tournament bracket. 11. If you must fill out more than one bracket, then don’t have too much fun with your backup schools. Make sure that all your late-round selections have a snowball’s chance of getting to the Final Four. In other words, no “just because” Iona predictions.12. NET isn’t just something to put a ball through anymore. The selection committed is using a new ranking formula this year, something called the NCAA Evaluation Tool, or NET, which has supplanted the RPI. Rankings are based on, among other criteria, win-loss record, strength of schedule, margin of victory and even a version of the college football “game control” component. It could be useful in discovering undervalued schools.13. If all you know is “that guy … you know, that guy who’s supposed to be LeBron and Shaq rolled into one?” then you’re in luck. “That guy” is Zion Williamson, and he plays for Duke, a blue blood No. 1 seed that rules one of those power conferences and is a favorite to reach the Final Four.
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