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8 Dos and Don’ts of Filling Out Your NCAA Bracket


The NCAA Tournament is upon us, which means it’s time to grab a pen and fill out your bracket before you feign sickness and call out of work so you can watch nothing but basketball for days on end.

There’s no real science involved, but there are some smart things you can to help increase your chances of winning your pool. Luckily for you, we know them and plan to share them, so sit up straight and pay attention.

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Do Pick a #1 Seed to Go to the Final Four



Just don’t pick all of them. 2008 is the only year all four number one seeds reached the Final Four. It’s rare for no top seed not to make the Final Four – 1980, 2001 and 2006 are the only times it’s happened.


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Getty Images


Don’t Be Afraid to Pick a Team Who Plays in the First Four



Every year that the First Four, or so-called ‘play-in games,’ has taken place since it began in 2011, at least one team involved advanced past the field of 64. In 2011, VCU’s unlikely journey to the Final Four began with an opening round victory over USC as an 11-seed. In 2013, 13th-seeded LaSalle beat Boise State and made it to the Sweet 16 where they were taken down by eventual Final Four participant and fellow Cinderella Wichita State. So, not only can they win, but they may even go far.


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Getty Images


Do Pick a 5-Seed to Beat a 12-Seed



Traditionally, this is the most likely upset that will happen. In 2013 alone, three of the 5-12 matchups ended with a 12-seed winning. Since 2000, there have only been two seasons in which at least one 12-seed has not beaten a 5. Stick that neat little fact in your back pocket.


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Getty Images


Don’t Pick a 16-Seed to Beat a 1-Seed



It’s yet to happen since the field grew to 64 teams in 1985 and only once has a 16-seed even taken a 1-seed to overtime (1990, when Murray State pushed Michigan State to the brink). Yes, sometimes the games are close and 15 seeds have taken down 2-seeds seven times, but don’t be the yokel that goes against the grain and picks the 16-seed. Until it actually happens, don’t bet on it.


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Getty Images


Do Follow Your Instincts



Look, sometimes your gut tells you a top seed will go down to a 9-seed in the third round. This is where pools are won – having the nerve to go against a team everyone has winning it all, but doing it for the right reasons, like the defensive matchups, injury concerns or a coach having a proven track record. Did you have ninth-seeded Wichita State topping top-seeded Gonzaga last year? If you did, you probably did your bracket a world of good. Sometimes, going out a well-educated limb pays off.


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Getty Images


Don’t Pick a Team Because of the Name



From Lumberjacks and Lobos to Blue Devils and Blue Hens, there are a lot of quirky mascots,but picking them based on names? This is just nonsense. Leave it for the clueless folks who joined your office pool because they thought it’d be neat. If you’re picking North Dakota State because the team is the Bison then may we interest you in investing in our 8-track stereo system because that’s also just wasting your money.


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Getty Images


Do Know When to Stop Picking Cinderella



We all know the storybook runs Butler, VCU, George Mason and Wichita State enjoyed en route to the Final Four over the years, but here’s a startling fact: no team seeded 12thor lower has ever made it that far. Midnight will most likely strike before college basketball’s final weekend. And the lowest-seeded national champion is Villanova, who won the whole kit and caboodle as an 8-seed way back in 1985.


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Getty Images


Don’t Bet Against Repeats



When picking the Final Four, take a look at who made it last year. Odds are a team playing in the Final Four played in it the previous season: the last time no team made it the year before was 2006.


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