Just when you think nothing crazy will happen in the first weekend, aside from Harvard winning a game, the bracket gets completely busted open. But before you crumple up your sheet, or smash your computer screen (too late for that one probably) and forget about the science of picking for the rest of the year, think about what you can learn from this traumatizing experience.
This guy knows what I’m talking about ^ if you don’t survive and advance, stare into space and analyze. So, with the disclaimer that everything is going to get turned on it’s head with Conference Realignment before next year’s tournament, here are a couple of trends that might help with picks in 2014.
The Gap Has Closed:
Mid-Majors, the teams that Doug Gottlieb and other nerds try to warn you about, are categorically unafraid of storied programs from the “big 6” conferences. The fact that the A-10 went 6-0 in the first round, with a middling team like Temple nearly knocking off the regular season champs in the Big Ten, proves that the best conferences all year long aren’t necessarily more talented overall. They may just be more competitive, and that seems to have prepared Michigan, Ohio St, Indiana, and Michigan St. for some tough battles on the way to the Sweet 16, but there are now athletes in every conference that can take these giants down.
Look at Florida Gulf Coast, aka Lob City, and tell me that you should research anything other than the level of athleticism that lower seeds possess. A 16 will beat a 1 at some point, as Southern nearly proved on Thursday, because they have superior athletes, so if you want to be the smartest person in the world, keep betting on the kids that jump out the gym.
Chalk Is Good, In Limited Doses:
We had one region go straight chalk into the round of 16: Indiana, Syracuse, Miami, and Marquette made it real interesting, but proved that they’re the best teams in the South Region. Aside from FGCU’s historic run and Oregon’s predictable “upsets” in the first two rounds, two other regions were one team away from a chalk Sweet 16.
Then of course you have #13 La Salle vs. #9 Wichita State in the typically ridiculous region. So when you go for that 5 Million dollar prize with a perfect bracket, you have to have one region with a #13 playing a #12 and such, the #1 probably losing to a team they would beat 95 times out of 100 and a bunch of “mid-major” kids doing this:
Trust Joey Brackets:
So how do you key in on the predictable upsets? Listen to the guys who spend their entire lives analyzing how good these teams really are. Joe Lunardi’s only major gripe with the selection committee was the fact that they gave, Oregon, the Pac-12 champions, a 12 seed. The committee made a similarly calculated move by giving Ole Miss a #12, and clearly Cal was worth more than a #12. Are you telling me that #10 seeds, i.e. Oklahoma and Colorado, are two seeds better than these teams?
The answer is no. But the committee deliberately makes these #12 vs. #5 games toss ups to promote the unpredictable nature of the tournament. That’s why three 12 seeds won their first game, and why you should listen when experts say that someone was under-seeded.
Look For Game-Changers:
This one is pretty self-explanatory, since the tournament usually becomes a breakout party for a few incredible players, but figuring out who will rise to the occasion is key. Aaron Craft would not let his team lose on Sunday, Shane Larkin is an unbelievable talent, and Victor Oladipo saved anyone who picked Indiana with his clutch performance. Strangely enough, these aren’t guys who demonstrate their passion by acting a fool (ala Marshall Henderson) or pounding their chest like a zoo animal, looking at you Davonte Gardener.
Instead, they’re the guys that never get rattled, who don’t allow the moment to get bigger than them, and play with a level-head regardless of the situation. Your going to need guys like that for your bracket.
Luck For The Future:
Somebody has to win these pools, so if your still alive I wish you the best of luck. Just remember what you’ve witnessed this weekend when you make your picks next year. Because even if you expect the unexpected, it’s good to have a method to your madness.