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March Madness 2021: An idiot’s guide to filling out your NCAA Tournament bracket



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 get trolled extra hard in Zoom calls, then you might want to pay close attention to the following pieces of advice.

In what has become an annual thing whenever March Madness takes place, Sporting News presents an idiot’s guide to filling out an NCAA Tournament bracket.

March Madness bracket: An idiot’s guide

1. Picking double-digit seeds to win is smart, until it isn’t. The 12-5 and 13-4 games are some of the most competitive matchups in the first round, but staying with a bracket-buster beyond the Round of 32 is unwise. The lowest seed to win a title in the 64-team era (1985 to present) is Villanova, an eighth seed in ’85. Connecticut was a seventh seed in 2014.

2. Blue remains the uniform color of champions. Blue-blood programs Kentucky and Duke are not in this year’s dance, but you can still rock with Gonzaga, Michigan and Illinois. They all feature blue in their outfits and also happen to be among the tournament favorites. Kansas and defending champion Virginia are playable as high seeds, too. 

3. If you like to make picks based on mascots, then you have some beauties to choose from this March Madness, including Antelopes (Grand Canyon), Bonnies (St. Bonaventure), Gaels (Iona), Gauchos (California-Santa Barbara), Mean Green (North Texas) and Ramblers (Loyola-Chicago). But if you’re into funky AND functional, then go with this group: Zags, Illini, Wolverines and Jayhawks.

MORE: Get your printable March Madness bracket here

4. Only pick your alma mater to go all the way if 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 that perk. Put aside sentiment, use your intellect and recognize your school’s limitations.

5. More than ever, the 8 vs. 9 games are coin flips. The tournament committee adjusted the criteria for seeding the field this year, leaning on rankings instead of geography, so the differences between schools in the middle of the bracket figure to be narrower. Now, if you’re using a coin to pick all the games . . . we got nothing other than “Good luck.”

6. You can no longer pick a school based on how well its head coach dresses. Coaches have exchanged suits and sport coats for fleece pullovers, polos and sweats, continuing a trend that began last year in the NBA bubble. No more Jay Wright or Tony Bennett sartorial splendor; it’s all Bob Huggins chic now. Unrelated: “Bob Huggins” and “chic” are words that don’t belong together in a sentence, but here we are.

DeCOURCY: The secrets to Bob Huggins’ success, from those who know him best

7. The major conferences almost always win the trophy. Thirty-one of the 32 NCAA Division I men’s basketball conferences are competing in this year’s tournament (the Ivy League did not play at all this season). A half-dozen leagues run March Madness, however: The ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC have combined for 32 of the 35 national titles since 1985. No. 1 overall seed Gonzaga (West Coast Conference) is the outsider that’s best equipped to buck that trend this year.

8. A No. 16 seed has beaten a No. 1 seed once. Could it happen again this year? Sure. Will it? Nope, not even in a season where chaos has been the default state.





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