After what seems like forever ago, we finally have a bracket again! It’s the best time of year to sit and stress over first-round picks, flip coins when you’re unsure, and enjoy one of the best weekends in sports. There is a lot to think about, so that’s why I am here to put your mind at ease. Not everyone has the time to do hours upon hours of research when filling out their bracket, so I took it upon myself to do it for you and share my results.
I will be writing different articles on building the perfect bracket for small, medium, and large-sized pools. Every different pool will obviously have varying levels of risk vs. return, but after ample research, I have found keys to filling out each type of bracket.
Below I have laid out three keys for building a bracket in a medium pool. Be sure to use the BettingPros bracket optimizer to help your research as well.
Gonzaga Doesn’t Have to Win
While it may be tempting to simply put the number-one overall seed straight through the bracket, I’d hold your horses a bit this time. I’m not saying pick them to be upset in the Sweet 16, but there are teams capable of taking down this giant in the Final Four or championship game.
Perhaps a team like Texas can size up well and beat them in the Final Four, or Illinois or Baylor can give them another runner-up title. Simply not picking Gonzaga to win it all already makes your bracket contrarian and gives you solid leverage. I understand a lot of focus sits on Gonzaga, but the bracket basically pivots around this team’s success or failure.
Don’t Be Afraid to Pick Upsets
While it can be difficult to identify and pick the right upsets, correctly picking them can be the difference between winning and losing your bracket down the road. 13-seeds win 21% of first-round games, so taking a flyer on one is not the worst idea (I’m looking at you, Ohio).
Don’t be afraid to include more than one or two double-digit seeds in your Sweet 16. Usually, just over two double-digit seeds make it past the first weekend. Last tournament, Oregon as a 12-seed was a popular choice, and they executed. So don’t go crazy here, but it’s alright to have two or three double-digit seeds make it past the first weekend. I see Michigan State, Rutgers, Georgetown, and Syracuse as viable contenders.
Identify Your Elite 8, And Work Backwards
Picking the correct first-round upsets is an incredible feeling. Still, the later-round games are almost always weighted more, and therefore hold a greater significance when it comes to winning your pool. Even if you miss 25% of the first-round games and still pick seven of the Elite 8 teams correctly, you are in prime shape.
Identify who you see in your Elite 8 and then go from there. It will help you limit crazy upsets while still seasoning them in. For me, a solid Elite 8 in a medium-sized pool includes Gonzaga, Iowa, Florida State, Texas, Baylor, Arkansas, Oklahoma State, and Rutgers. It is perfectly reasonable to sub-out Oklahoma State for Illinois and Rutgers for Houston/West Virginia as well.
Find out more about building the perfect March Madness Brackets:
Whether you’re new to sports betting or a betting pro, our Sports Betting Strategy and Advice page is for you. You can get started with our 101 section — including 10 Sports Betting Tips for Beginners — or head to more advanced strategy — like Key Numbers When Betting Against the Spread — to learn more.
Ryan Coleman is a featured writer at BettingPros. For more from Ryan, check out his archive.