Want to Win Your March Madness Bracket?

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Issue 165: Stupid Trivia to Help You Fill Out Your March Madness Bracket

We’re finally here! It’s the greatest time of year: March Madness.

The brackets have been set. Some teams are in the field that maybe shouldn’t have made it, others have been snubbed and we’ll be upset for two days, then completely forget about them. As it should be.

Now we’re in the fun part of things. Filling out your bracket is a time-honored tradition. Maybe you’re part of a pool with a $60,000 prize on the line, or perhaps you just want to beat that annoying colleague of yours from the accounting department.

Maybe you ARE the annoying colleague in the accounting department and have to reclaim your crown.

Whatever the case may be, there are a lot of strategies for filling out your bracket. But very few are as sound as mine. You just need to remember these 5 things.

Note: These tidbits are for the men’s NCAA Tournament. The women’s tournament tends to have less chaos seeding-wise and doesn’t have nearly as many fun facts, but is still going to be full of buzzer beaters and shenanigans, so you should definitely watch.

Your champion should have blue in its colors

Since the tournament expanded to 64+ teams in 1985, a team with blue as one of its main colors has won 28 of 36 tournaments, which is about 78% of the time.

If you want to get real technical, Louisville’s 2013 title was vacated because of infractions including trying to bribe players with money and sex, so really, a blue team has won 28 out of 35 championships.

But perhaps you hate the color blue and just can’t bear to have a team rocking it as your champion. In that case, at least have them advance to the championship.

That’s happened in every single NCAA Tournament championship game except 2002, when Maryland beat Indiana. A whole lotta red going on there.

Animals are better than humans

Since 1985, only eight teams with human mascots/team names have won a championship. And that’s counting the Duke Blue Devils, which you could easily argue is more of a colorful demon or entity than a human.

Duke has won five of those eight titles. If we remove them, we’re left with the 2019 Virginia Cavaliers, the 1987 Indiana Hoosiers — who don’t even have a mascot; their team name is a reference to people that live in Indiana — and 1990’s UNLV with its controversial Hey Reb! mascot.

Meanwhile, schools with animal names or mascots have won a whopping 27 tournaments in the same timeframe.

Don’t discount fruit, either: Syracuse’s 2003 title means oranges are on the board.

Pick between 12 and 13 upsets for the whole tournament

The NCAA defines “upset” in a few different ways. For the purposes of this exercise, it means a team wins that’s at least two seed lines worse than the team it beat.

For example, a No. 9 seed beating an 8 seed, or a No. 5 taking down a No. 4? Not an upset. But an 11 beating a 6 or a 7 beating a 2 is. Goodness, that’s a lot of numbers.

The average for a given tournament is 12.4 upsets. Of course, we can’t pick fractional teams, so a safe bet is 12 to 13. Some years we’ll have more (like 19 in 2014 or 18 in 2021), and some years we’ll have fewer, like the FOUR in 2007. Yikes.

But generally, if you pick about half the number of upsets in each subsequent round, you’ll do okay. There are typically 6.2 upsets in the first round, 3.7 in the second round, 1.7 in the Sweet 16, 0.5 in the Elite Eight, and 0.2 in the Final Four.

If you end up picking more than two upsets in the Final Four, you know something has gone horribly wrong, because there are only two games to choose from.

Keep the total sum of your Final Four seeds under 20

Where my math fans at? *Crickets ensue*

This is a real tip from the NCAA itself. I would even say you could probably keep the sum under 16 and you’d be alright.

For example, last year’s Final Four saw Gonzaga and Baylor (both one seeds) make it, plus No. 2 seed Houston and No. 11 seed UCLA. That’s a grand total of 15.

I’ll hold while the mathematicians applaud my great work up there.

Don’t pick Duke to win the championship 

As noted in a recent issue, Duke’s Coach K has used this entire season as a farewell tour. He’s retiring after this year, which means any game could be his last.

Duke already lost badly in its final regular-season game and again in the ACC Tournament title game.

Everyone seemed to be penciling in a storybook ending for Coach K, but as the past two years have shown, the world doesn’t care about your storybook endings.

That’s harsh, I know, but I’m just trying to spare you the anguish now.

And that’s it! Use the above when making your picks and you’ll be guaranteed* to win your bracket pool.

Or just pick based on your favorite vacation destinations. Nobody knows what we’re doing and that’s the fun of it.

May the odds be in your favor as the madness begins. Now let’s dance!

*Guarantee not actually valid in any city, state, country, unincorporated town, or igloo.

One other bit of housekeeping—my friend Sean (who has been referenced a couple of times in past issues) and I are starting a new podcast called Sports R Dumb. We both love sports, but my goodness, are there some dumb elements to it.

The first episode drops tomorrow, but you may as well click here and subscribe now, you know? In the name of efficiency and all. And speaking of efficiency, all episodes are about 10-15 minutes. So you can listen and get on with your day. LOVE IT.