Bracket Busting – Part 1

Maybe I’m still too inspired by Moneyball, but I feel like there is a way to accurately put yourself in good position to win some big moneys in a March Madness bracket.

I’ll start with the glaringly obvious, as well as some historical things that you should take a look at when building your bracket.

A number 1 seed has never lost to a number 16 seed.

Number 2 seeds rarely lose to number 15 seeds… But when they do, they are led by Steve Nash. I mean… The number 2 seeds that lost weren’t teams that look good on paper- But what do I know about the 1991 Syracuse Orange.

Number 3 and 4 seeds generally win, as expected, but since 1985, There have been 1 or 2 13th/14th seed upsets in the tournament every year, except for 1994, 2000, 2004, and 2007. That’s only 4 of the last 27 tournaments. You should not force a 13/14 seed upset, but if you have a gut feeling about a certain team not being that good, go ahead and put that team down.

And Smoke Rafer just guaranteed you 12 games! Just kidding you probably messed up the upset.

Here’s a fact that may help late in the bracket. Since 2004, the Most Outstanding Player award has been won by a junior every year except for in 2006, when Joakim Noah won for Florida. In addition, pretty much every single MOP has been in the NBA, however short their stint may be.

This isn’t like some weird creepy thing like how the Suns had a 16 game losing streak on TNT televised games. It makes sense for juniors to have a large impact on the tournament. They have 2 more years of big game experience under their belt than the one-and-dones, they’ve been here before, and have probably lost in the tournament previously. They have a better grasp of the game in late game situations, and they have a lot more chemistry with the team. Being a junior in the tournament is essentially heading into Game 6 of an NBA playoff series up 3-2, but without home court advantage in Game 7. This is kind of your last chance to win it, except not really.

So why not a senior? If you declare for the draft after your senior season, you are usually second round fodder, and you tend not to be as talented as your brethren that went into the league years before you. There are still a lot of juniors that get drafted in the first round, but being a senior is a bit of a red flag, part of the reason why guys like Lin and Fields get overlooked. Because of this I hold sophomores highest second in regard, then seniors, then freshmen.

For reference, here are some players that are considered the top juniors in the nation

  • Thomas Robinson, Kansas
  • John Henson, North Carolina
  • Damian Lillard, Weber State
  • Brandon Paul, Illinois
  • Arnett Moultrie, Mississippi State
  • Jeff Withey, Kansas
  • Mason Plumlee, Duke
  • Jared Cunningham, Oregon State 
  • Royce White, Iowa State
  • Dexter Strickland, North Carolina
  • John Jenkins, Vanderbilt
  • Hollis Thompson, Georgetown
  • J’Covan Brown, Texas
  • Renardo Sidney, Mississippi State

I’ve crossed out the teams that won’t/probably aren’t going to make the tournament. Mississippi State has HIGH upset potential.

Other frivolities, since the beginning of time (almost) or at least in the last 20-30 odd years, the Final Four has always included one of the following teams: North Carolina, Duke, Kentucky, Kansas, and UCLA. The Bruins are not sniffing the tournament this year, so make sure you include one of the teams I mentioned. I was also going to say pretty much every single year except for last year, at least one number 1 or 2 seed make the Final Four, but it would be redundant to say that because UNC, Duke, Kansas, and Kentucky should all be pretty much seeded number 1 or 2.

This is the general stuff that I can claim without looking too hard. In part 2 I hope to look at victory margins and minutes played by a team… and other cool stuff that would help you win.

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