Th NCAA's March Madness tournament gets underway on March 15th. As usual, this year's tournament will be chocked full of interesting storylines and exciting finishes. The real-life drama is what makes the tournament so appealing for both big time college basketball fanatics and the casual viewer who's just hoping to guess right and pick the winning teams on their bracket sheet.
This widespread appeal and the fact that a person has something like a 1 in 9.2 quintillion chance of putting together the perfect bracket is exactly why a billionaire like Warren Buffett can safely offer up $1 million a year for life to any employee of his that gets to the tournament's Sweet 16 round with a perfect record. And that's exactly why he was able to offer up a $1 billion prize for a perfect bracket from round one through to the championship game last year. It's also why March Madness has actually outpaced the Super Bowl in terms of the amount of money wagered on the tournament in Las Vegas over the last number of years. Its estimated participants wagered over $375 million on the tournament last year.
Still the question remains, what can the average person do to give themselves a better chance to beat their buddies for beer money or maintain bragging rights over their coworkers at the office with the best bracket possible? Here are a few things to consider:
1. Go with whoever is hot!
Take a look at a team with a decent national ranking that finished the regular season strong. A team playing well is less susceptible to a loss. Momentum has always been a huge part of sports and crowning America's national collegiate basketball champion means playing the best basketball possible over a short, two-week long stretch. While nothing is guaranteed of course, it's better to pick teams playing consistently than to fill your bracket with monumental first-round upsets which may be exciting, but will also see you bust out of your pool by the time the second round starts.
2. Pick a historically strong team to win it all in the end
Over the past decade, only seven schools have gone on to claim a national title, including: UConn, North Carolina, Florida, Kansas, Duke, Kentucky and Louisville. Yes riding hot teams is important when it comes to getting through the early rounds of the tournament in good shape, but the reality is that an underdog rarely wins it all. The Villanova Wildcats were seeded eighth when the school won the tournament back in 1985, and 30 years later no team seeded lower than that has ever claimed victory.
3. Watch out for teams with any sort of home court advantage
While the March Madness tournament is supposed to be organized in a way that doesn't allow teams to play games on their home court, certain heavyweights always seem to get the benefit of the doubt when it comes to playing at least somewhat close to home. Fans of Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky and other big schools tend to travel fairly well. Don't think for a second that having at least a large part of the crowd if not the whole stadium rooting for a particular team doesn't make a difference. It totally does.
4. Stay up-to-date with injuries and breaking news leading up to the tournament
Remember that time when the internet went crazy after former Louisville guard Kevin Ware suffered a gruesome injury, breaking his leg so badly the bone poked through the skin for all of America to see? It was ugly!
Nobody can predict when that kind of injury is going to happen once the tournament starts, but staying up-to-date on injuries before the first round begins at least provides an opportunity to make it to the later rounds of the tournament. Any number of major sports media outlets will give you the skinny on all of the teams participating and the key players to watch. Brush up on your knowledge and stay ahead of the rest of the office!
Without a doubt this year's tournament will feature its share of upsets and unexpected events that change the whole dynamics of the March Madness tournament. Those events and storylines are what make the tournament exciting after all. Nobody can predict who will win, but those smart enough to stay on top of things before the first jump ball is thrown up in the air on March 15th just may give Warren Buffett a run for his money. Even if the contest he is hosting this year is only open to his employees.