March madness!?!?!?: Don’t get mad…here are some bracketology tips from our resident varsity athlete

Although the madness technically began earlier this week with conference tournament play, everyone knows that the true madness begins Selection Sunday. On that fateful day, 65 collegiate men’s basketball teams will be placed in a tournament to determine the national champion. Following the announcement of this year’s field, you can bet that everyone and their dog will be running to the computer to print off a bracket. But once you get a bracket, how will you know which teams to pick? For the amount of time I spend following sports, I admit that I am the worst when it comes to predicting the outcome of the NCAA tournament. So this year, I did some research to find out what trends hold up from year to year. The NCAA tournament makes most basketball fans think of stunning upsets. So when you fill out your bracket, you may get a little upset happy with your picks, which is OK—but not if you want to win your pool. Over the last three years, there has been an average of seven first round upsets out of 32 games. But those rare first round upsets are significant in that in each of those years, two first round rebels carried their momentum on to second round wins. The second round is where upsets are more prevalent. Over the same three-year span, second round upsets have occurred almost twice as often as first round upsets. The next question is who to pick as your upset teams. One thing to consider is that small schools with a reputation for pulling off upsets have that reputation for a reason. Coaches that have a formula for winning in the tournament with small schools are very likely to continue to win. Six of the last seven teams to get a first round upset and return to the tournament the next year won in the first round again. Other than that, you’ve got to go with your gut when picking upsets. One team that I would not be surprised to see get upset at some point is Florida. Sure they won last year, but every year some team loses early after returning their star players from a long tourney run the year before. Then we all scratch our heads wondering how such a sure bet didn’t pan out. A group of players with past tournament success will count on things to work out when the tournament starts, because, well, everything worked out last year. This is not the case. Last season, West Virginia, Illinois, and Michigan State all lost in earlier rounds than the season before despite having the same core group of players. If this argument doesn’t convince you to be wary of Florida, consider this: no team has made consecutive Final Fours since Kansas pulled it off four years ago. They were one of only six teams to accomplish the feat in the last ten years. On top of that, the teams that made it back were generally led by seniors hungry for a title after falling short their junior year. With a title in hand, Florida doesn’t fit the description. Neither do the senior-less UCLA Bruins, last year’s runner-up and one of the favorites this season. So if past tournament success does not point to a champion, what does? The answer is past tournament failure. UCLA and Florida both made deep tournament runs last season after being bounced out in the first two rounds the year before. The same goes for North Carolina two years ago, who won it all the year after losing in the second round. Experience in pressure situations and the empty feeling of defeat pays off for teams returning to the tournament. Some top teams that lost early last year include Ohio State, Kansas, Texas A&M, and Wisconsin. Look for these teams to make some noise this March.