March Madness Predictions and Tips

In the dozens of years of millions of people filling out multiple different March Madness Brackets there has never been a perfect bracket. Because of all the true possible scenarios, there are more than 9 quintillion, or a 9 followed by 18 zeros, different combinations. But, because 1 seeds win their first game nearly every single time, except for when UMBC shocked the world by beating Virginia, the odds lower, down to around one in 2.4 trillion according to mathematicians. 


The closest anyone has gotten was in 2019, when Gregg Nigl filled out the first 49 games correctly, becoming the first person to ever predict all the games through the Sweet Sixteen correctly. 


However, there are always huge bracket busters. In 2018, UMBC became the first 16 seed to take down a one seed. At the time, 16 seeds had a 0-135 record. They made it 1-135 and busted the last perfect bracket remaining. In 2013, FGCU pulled off a shocking upset of #2 seed Georgetown in the first round. They then went on an dominated #7 San Diego State 81-71 before their tournament run was ended by #3 Florida in the Sweet Sixteen. Only 2.3% of the brackets filled out on ESPN had a FGCU upset. Then, in 2015, two 3 seeds went down on the same day, beginning with UAB beating Iowa State and then more notably Georgia State staging an epic comeback against Baylor, ending with a three pointer by R.J. Hunter. Only 4.68% of people had UAB winning in their bracket and 9.21% of people had Georgia State winning. But the biggest upset statistically, when it comes to number of brackets busted, was in 2016 when #15 seed Middle Tennessee took down #2 Michigan State, an upset only 2.13% of brackets had correct, compared to 2.18% of people choosing UMBC.


My Bracket:

There are some upsets that are statistically more likely to happen and I used that to my advantage when filling out my bracket. For example, from the 2010 tournament on, there were only two years where no twelfth seeds won their first game, in 2015 and 2018. The 12 seeds this year are actually surprisingly strong. The two best 12 seeds in this year’s bracket, in my eyes, are UC Santa Barbara and Winthrop. Santa Barbara is currently on a 18-1 run since the beginning of 2021 and feature high hustle and great free throw shooting. Creighton has also played down to their opponents level multiple times. If this is a dog fight, UCSB will likely pull it out. And for Winthrop, they enter the tournament with only one loss on the season. They play fast and feature guys who specialize a couple key areas which results in a very well rounded team. Villanova is also missing Collin Gillespie, their leading Senior Guard.

10 and 11 seeds are also a common upset that takes place, as 11 seeds have won about 33% of their opening games and 10 seeds have won about 40% of their opening games historically. Maryland and Rutgers are both 10 seeds that could win their first round matchup, for very different reasons. Maryland is a team that is very streaky and can get hot from outside the arc, scoring enough to win despite a below average defense. Meanwhile, Rutgers is a very defensive minded team that rarely got blown out this year. Despite struggles from behind the arc, they have the defensive ability to beat Clemson in a tight matchup. However, Virginia Tech is the tenth seed with the best shot to advance. They face a very mediocre Florida team that hasn’t been able to find any consistency since losing Preseason SEC Player of the Year, Keyontae Johnson. Virginia Tech will also slow the game down, causing problems for the fast pace that Mike White and the Gators are accustomed to. If Florida comes out cold and Virginia Tech can limit the Gators transition opportunities, they can easily take this game. For as many upsets that are truly possible this year, there’s only one 11th seed I like for the first round, Utah State. They are led by their big man upfront Neemias Queta, who averages a double-double and they have a veteran core around him. They also have freshman spark plug Rollie Worster who can provide a much needed boost at times. Texas Tech also struggles with foul trouble at times and Queta won’t shy away from attacking the paint and getting physical. 

And at least one 1 seed has to be upset eventually, as there has only been one occurrence of all four one seeds making it into the final four. So which one seed will go down? Michigan has shown off a little rust since their season was put on a pause briefly because of COVID-19. They’re also missing one of their top scorers in Isaiah Livers as he is out with a foot injury. Illinois will likely have to face three straight tough teams from the round of 32 through the Elite Eight, but as long as Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn stay healthy, they’ll be in a good position to win their first men’s hoops title. Gonzaga is a heavy favorite to win it all this year. Featuring Corey Kispert, Drew Timme and Jalen Suggs as well as head coach Mark Few, they are an incredible team. However, history is the only thing not on their side. The last time the AP #1 won the national championship was in 2012. The last time a team went fully undefeated throughout the regular season and won the tournament was 1976. But, on their way to the Final Four, the only team that can keep up with them are the Iowa Hawkeyes. And that leaves Baylor. On their way to the Final Four they would have to play either an above average Wisconsin or solid North Carolina, an always talented Purdue team, and an Ohio State team which has talent and doesn’t force too much. Match that with their horrible defensive rebounding and Baylor could be going home sooner, rather than later.


Finally, while picking upsets may feel exciting, especially when they hit, most sites reward more points when picking games later in the tournament correct. So pick a strong team to win the national championship, since a top 4 seed has won every year since 1989 except in 2014, when UConn took home the title