As the college basketball season nears its end, conferences around the country will begin holding their year-end tournaments. When all 32 conference tournaments have been completed (this year that will be by March 15th), the NCAA Selection Committee meets and puts together the field of 68 teams that will play for the national championship.
As a result of the conference tournaments, 32 teams earn an automatic entry to the NCAA tournament. The rest of the tournament field – 36 teams – is selected by the committee based upon their season records, strength of schedule, and a number of other factors. Beginning with this year’s tournament, the committee will utilize the NCAA Evaluation Tool, or NET, to help determine which teams earn an at-large bid.
Filling Out Your Bracket
It is common for even the non-sports fan to enter an office pool and bet on the NCAA tournament. Entrants are given a blank tournament bracket and must attempt to correctly pick the winners of all 67 games. The winner is selected in every game from the First Four to the Final Four and eventually the national champion.
The bracket consists of four regions with each region containing 16 teams. The First Four, which will be played on March 19 and 20 this year in Dayton, Ohio, will determine the final 16 teams in each region. These play-in games are normally played between teams that are seeded No. 11 or lower. After the First Four games are complete, first round play begins on March 21 and 22 with No. 1 playing No. 16, No.2 facing No. 15, and so on. Higher-seeded teams are usually favored to win, but what makes the tournament so fun to watch are the upsets that often unfold, especially early in the tournament.
Click the bracket to view the PDF editable version
Things to Consider When Betting
When filling out your bracket, there are a few items to consider. One is that no one has ever filled out a perfect bracket and correctly picked the winner of all 67 games. Several other trends may guide your thought process as you complete your bracket.
Last year was the first time a No. 1 seed lost an opening round game when Virginia lost to Maryland-Baltimore County. Don’t expect it to happen again anytime soon.
In the history of the NCAA tournament, only eight No. 15 seeds have ever won an opening round game. In 2013, Florida Gulf Coast actually made it to the Sweet Sixteen.
Since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, a No. 12 seed has won at least one game in almost every tournament. There have been 47 wins by 12th-seeded teams in the first round of the tournament. No No. 12 seeds won a game last year. Only one No. 12 seed has ever won a Sweet Sixteen game. Missouri did it back in 2002.
The lowest seeded team to win a national championship was Villanova in 1985. In 2014, seventh-seeded Connecticut won it all.
A No. 1 seed is more likely than any to win the national title. The last two champions – Villanova and North Carolina – were No. 1 seeds. Nine of the last 12 tournament champions were No. 1 seeds.
In choosing your Final Four, realize that the lowest seeded team to ever make it that far was a No. 11. It has actually been done three times, most recently by Virginia Commonwealth in 2011.
Choose Wisely & Have Fun!
One thing is certain in the NCAA tournament. Upsets are going to happen. They are tough to pick, but remember the top four seeds in each region have the best chances of winning their first two games. The toughest games to pick will be the No. 8-No. 9 matchups in each region. Still, the winner in those games is unlikely to win a second game. The last time a No. 8 or No. 9 seed advanced to a Final Four was in 2013 (Wichita State). Prior to that, you have to go back to 2000 when North Carolina and Wisconsin, both No. 8 seeds, made the Final Four.
More often than not, the Elite Eight will feature at least two No. 1 seeds. When selecting the Final Four, remember that teams seeded No. 1 through No. 4 are more likely to make it than lower seeded teams. It’s hard to predict what could happen in the upcoming tournament, but have fun doing it and hope for the best!
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