The Connecticut Huskies react after defeating the Butler Bulldogs to win the National Championship Game of the 2011 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament by a score of 53-41 at Reliant Stadium on April 4, 2011 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Last year, I published my "15 Rules Rules To Follow" while picking your NCAA Tournament bracket, and, well, it didn't work out so well. In fact, it was such train wreck I thought about scrapping my whole formula thing for making picks for my March Madness bracket for this year.
However, I am a stubborn guy and I know, in the past, that my rules for making predictions have worked out fairly well. Also, last year, I failed to adjust to the changing times of NCAA basketball, which has featured chaos, mid-major success and a lot of good teams, but not a lot of great ones -- a scenario that creates for one heck of an NCAA Tournament.
So, again, I bring you my "15 Rules" to picking your NCAA Tournament bracket (with some small tweaks to adjust to this year):
Rule 1: All No. 1 and 2 seeds advance past the first two rounds
, but one (see Rule 10).
I play the odds here because most of us know a No. 1 has never lost to a No. 16 and the odds of a No. 15 upsetting a No. 2 are as good as you winning your bracket pool. Meaning: (No. 1-seeded) Kentucky Wildcats, (1) Syracuse Orange, (1) North Carolina Tar Heels, (1) Michigan St. Spartans, (2) Duke Blue Devils, (2) Missouri Tigers, (2) Ohio St. Buckeyes and (2) Kansas Jayhawks move to the round of 32.
Rule 2: Never pick against the
Big East Big Ten Conference in the first round.
This is what I said last year about the Big East:
I did a little research for this piece (trust me, very little) and found out that in the past four years the Big East is 19-9 (67.8) in first-round games. Now, I understand that those odds are just a bit better than a coin flip, but if you toss out the off-year, which was last season when the Big East lost four of its eight first-round contests, the Big East is 14-5 (73.7) in the previous three seasons.
As you know now, that strategy didn't work out so well, as the Big East finished just above .500 (13-10) and had one team reach the Elite 8 -- UConn, which ended up winning the National Championship.
So, this year I am going to try the Big Ten Conference, as I believe they're the best conference in the nation. Meaning: (4) Indiana Hoosiers, (10) Purdue Boilermakers, (4) Michigan Wolverines and (4) Wisconsin Badgers all move on.
(Note 2:The Big East received nine invites to the NCAA Tournament and I believe only two teams have a legitimate shot at the Sweet 16 -- Syracuse and Marquette.)
Rule 3: Big-name coaches never lose in the first round.
I don't have a listed criteria of what a big-name coach is, but I am pretty sure Connecticut Huskies' Jim Calhoun, Louisville Cardinals' Rick Pitino and Florida Gators' Billy Donovan are. What are their records in the first round? I have no clue. I just know I never pick against top-tier coaches, which means: (9) UConn, (4) Louisville and (7) Florida advance to play in the Round of 32.
Rule 4: Big-name players never lose in the first round.
Again, I don't know what the criteria of a big-name player or what their record is in the first round, but I'm sure the nation's third-best scorer, Creighton Bluejays' Dough McDermott, fits the criteria, even though you've maybe never heard of him.
Rule 5: Split the four No. 5-No. 12 games 50/50.
In 21 of the past 23 years, a No. 12 has knocked off a No. 5 (a researched fact). So, if you're in need of an upset, always make sure to pencil in at least two of these (I say two because the winner advances to play a No. 1 seed in the Sweet 16. So, even if you're wrong it probably won't hurt you past round three).
Rule 6: Never pick against Purdue
(3) (10) or Temple (7) (5) in the first round.
I don't know why I've made this a rule for my brackets, but it just seems this strategy always works out. (Same reasoning applies this year.)
Rule 7: Coin-flip games (No. 8-9, 7-10 or 6-11 contests) (that haven't been decided by previous rules) should be picked by your wife, girlfriend or non-college basketball friend.
fiance wife decided that: (6) UNLV Runnin' Rebels, (11) Colorado St. Rams, (6) San Diego St. Aztecs, (10) West Virginia Mountaineers, (6) Cincinnati Bearcats, (7) Notre Dame Fighting Irish and (8) Kansas St. Wildcats are winning. That's good enough for me.
Rule 8: Always pick a Sweet 16 Cinderella
There's always one shocking team that wins two games and enters the second week as the feel-good story. In 2010, it was (9) Northern Iowa, (12) Cornell and (10) St. Mary's (CA).
This year, I am going with (12) Harvard, (12) Long Beach St. and (12) VCU.
This means by default, (5) Temple and (3) Marquette all advance to the Sweet 16.
Scout for bracket karma. Defense will win this year.
Last year, it was Florida that received a No. 2 seed and I'd said they'd get up set in the Round of 32. The Gators made it to the Elite 8. Bracket-karma doesn't exist.
So, I am switching to an aspect that I said would be successful in the tournament this year -- defense.
If a team can play ugly and play solid defense, they're going to win games in the NCAA Tournament, and that's why (7) Notre Dame is going to upset (2) Duke in the Round of 32, and (3) FSU, (1) Syracuse and (1) Kentucky will do well.
(Note: Louisville plays outstanding defense, but they are too streaky when it comes to shooting the ball and, well, I needed a team to fit Rules No. 10 and 11.)
Rule 10: Hot teams make it past the first week.
Last year, UConn (5) won five games in five days to win the Big East Tournament title and then six in a row to win the National Championship.
Right now, (12) VCU fits that description pretty well, as does (2) Missouri and (3) FSU.
12 11: Look for over-looked, mid-seeded squads to make an Elite 8 run.
In 2010, Tennessee (6) and Butler (5) made a run. Last year, it was (8) Butler and (11) VCU. This year, I am going with (12) Long Beach St. and (6) San Diego St.
13: If you'd like to vacation at the school's location, they deserve an Elite 8 trip.
Last year, I said:
This is the only reason I could justify having San Diego State (2) winning three games.
Which reassures me that the the Aztecs and 49ers are making it to the Elite 8.
14 13: The best and most talented teams (usually) win.
Last year made this rule a dumb one, as zero No. 1s or No. 2s made the Final Four. However, are we positive that things are going to be as nutty as last year? No.
This is why, Syracuse, Kentucky, Missouri and North Carolina are all making it to the Final Four.
15 14: Stick to your guns.
Last year, I said:
If you like a team(s) then don't go back and forth on whether or not to advance them. Just advance them! You'll feel good about it when they win and still feel (somewhat) good about yourself when they lose.
All season long, I believed Long Beach St., who played a extremely tough non-conference schedule and played it well despite some losses, could be this year's VCU.
I also thought, Kentucky and Syracuse were the two best teams in the nation, and wanted to see them meet in the NCAA title game. Well, I am not stopping now.
11 15: Pick your favorite team to advance one game further than you think.
Because if they advance and you don't pick them, you'll be angry with yourself.
Conclusion: Syracuse (1) to
the Elite 8 will win the National Championship against (1) Kentucky.
For more NCAA Tournament coverage, be sure to check out our tournament stream, SB Nation's tournament hub and SB Nation New York. Also make sure to check out our NCAA Tournament Printable Bracket stream.
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