It all starts tonight. The first of four play-in games is set for tonight in Dayton, Ohio. That will kick off the action in the 2022-23 NCAA tournament. The 68-team field was announced on Sunday and, like any sports fan, you rushed to fill out your March Madness bracket.
Whether it’s an office pool, an online pool, or some other form of bracket challenge, picking enough correct games to win can be difficult. To help in your quest to wind up in the money, here are a few tips. You may want to go back and make some changes before all the action starts.
Take your bracket, go to the Final Four, and start working backwards. Here’s why.
You will be tempted to pick a number of potential upsets in Round 1. There will most likely be several upsets on Thursday and Friday. Since the NCAA expanded the tournament field back in 1985, there has been an average of a dozen upsets throughout the entire tournament.
It’s important to clarify that an upset is a game that is won by a team seeded at least two spots below its opponent. A No. 9 beating a No. 8 is not an upset. However, a No. 7 beating a No. 10 is.
Over the course of the past 36 tournaments, there have only been 15 instances where a seed lower than No. 6 has made the Final Four. North Carolina made it last year as a No. 8 seed. The lowest seed to ever win a national championship was No. 8. That was Villanova back in 1985. Connecticut won as a No. 7 seed in 2014.
In the past seven tournaments since UConn’s win, six No. 1 seeds and one No. 2 seed have won national titles. The point here is that more often than not the top four seeds in a region are more likely to make it to the Final Four than the other twelve. So, start with the Final Four and work backwards.
One of the best parts of the NCAA tournament is all of the upsets. The problem is that we don’t know which ones are going to happen. That means you must pick wisely in your bracket. Only once has a No. 1 seed lost in the first round. There have only been ten No. 2 seeds to ever lose in Round 1. A No. 2 seed has lost in each of the past two tournaments – Ohio State in 2021 and Kentucky last year.
Most upsets occur in the first round. If an average of 12 upsets happens every tournament, approximately six of those will come in Round 1.
The highest number of upsets comes from the No. 7-No. 10 first-round game. Since 1985, there have been 58 No. 10 seeds that have won their first-round game. Last year, Miami beat USC 68-66.
Florida, Iowa, and Minnesota all won their first-round games in the 2019 tournament as No. 10 seeds. Typically, No. 10 seeds are either Power conference teams that are good but got beaten up in a tough league or they are one of the best teams in a mid-major conference. VCU (2016), Wichita State (2017), and Butler (2018) are all great examples of mid-major No. 10 seeds that won a first-round tournament game.
Going Deeper in the Tourney
As you move deeper into the tournament, the number of upsets will decrease by round. You should figure on half of the number of upsets from the previous round. If you pick six in the first round, you will pick no more than three in Round 2.
As you move on to the second round, it is worth remembering that the No. 6 seed has beaten the No. 3 seed 29 times since 1985. The No. 7 seed has 26 wins over the No. 2 seed in Round 2.
History says that at least one No. 2 and one No. 3 will lose in the second round. Your job is to do the research and pick the right one to get bounced. In the 2019 tournament, all the second and third seeds won their second-round games.