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March Madness: The Perfect Bracket for Small Pools

by March 15, 2021

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 small pool. Be sure to use the BettingPros bracket optimizer to help you in your research as well.

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Gonzaga = Champion

Don’t think about it too much. Just go ahead and put Gonzaga all the way through your bracket. While their path to the championship might be slightly more difficult than clicking their name through, it won’t be by much. In the West Region, the Bulldogs have already beaten the top-four seeds by double-digits. Not to mention the three and four seeds, Kansas and Virginia, are experiencing Covid-19 related issues and might not even be able to practice until late this week or even play, for that matter.

Going with Gonzaga isn’t an exciting pick, and it is going to be quite chalky, but there is a reason for that. This Bulldog team is elite and very much ahead of the rest of the field. Reaching the Final Four for them is better than a 50/50 shot and winning it all nearly happens once every three times based on KenPom. Don’t overthink this one. Gonzaga should be your champion.

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Be Conservative With Upset Picks

Not only is it difficult to pick the right upsets, but a 13 seed wins their first-round game only 21% of the time. A 14-seed only 15% of the time. It may be tempting, but I would avoid any upsets beyond the 12v5 matchup. With that being said, you should have one 12-seed winning and one 11-seed winning.

Surprisingly, 12-seeds win at almost the same clip as 10-seeds, 36% of the time and 39% of the time, respectfully. What I would do for this is not exactly identify the best team as an 11 or 12-seed, but identify the weakest five or six-seed who you think has the lowest chance of making it far in the tournament. This means you will be less likely to be burned later down the road if your pick is wrong.

One-Seeds and Two-Seeds

While the ones and two’s make up the best eight teams in the bracket, they still lose at a surprisingly high clip. My advice is to find at least one-seed to lose before the Final Four and at least one two-seed to lose before the Elite 8. Again, identify a team that you think has holes and not a great chance of winning it all, so you are less likely to be burned. For me, that one-seed is Michigan, and a duo of two-seeds I’m identifying as potential upset picks include Houston and Iowa. 

Find out more about building the perfect March Madness Brackets:

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Ryan Coleman is a featured writer at BettingPros. For more from Ryan, check out his archive.

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