March Madness Bracket Strategy


When it comes to filling out March Madness brackets each year, there are several paths you can take. You spend all of this time crafting that perfect bracket only to have it busted by a hot-shooting 14-seed that knocks out one of your Final Four teams. There has to be a better way, right? I have spent years trying out different tips and tricks and compiling methods that you can use for your own bracket decisions which will help you look like a genius in front of your co-workers, family as well as your friends. Here are some strategies to try as you fill out your March Madness brackets this year.


Avoid Picking a Chalky Final Four

An 11-seed has made the Final Four in two of the last three tournaments, and we haven’t had all four No. 1 seeds in the Final Four since 2008. In fact, a 5 seed or lower has made the Final Four in eight straight tournaments. Resist the temptation to be chalky.

Be Smart About Your Upset Picks

We know some underdog teams will be busting brackets as usual, but we can’t just blindly pick upsets for the sake of doing so. For example, only one 16 seed has ever won a game in the tournament, while just nine 15 seeds have ever advanced. This doesn’t mean it won’t happen this year, but for the sake of making strong bracket predictions, the numbers aren’t on our side with these seeds. When it comes to picking upsets, we want to hyper focus our attention on seeds in the 11-13 range. The most common upset that we see each year is a 12 seed over a 5. Seventeen 12 seeds have defeated a 5 seed since 2010, so the chances of this happening are very strong. Meanwhile, 13 seeds have knocked off a 4 seed six times in the last five tournaments alone. The 11 seeds have upset a 6 in 37.5% of tournament games since 1985. Use this knowledge to wisely pick your upsets.


Use Your Head More Than Your Heart

This one is especially tough for me as I find it hard not to choose a team that I have been a big fan of throughout the season. If you’re in a bracket contest that has a payout or you just want to be able to trash talk your significant other’s dad when you beat him, you’ll need to be able to avoid making decisions based on your fandom. If your favorite team is Georgia State but they’re facing Gonzaga in Round 1, you simply have to make the best possible decision, which is obviously the Zags moving on.

Find Discrepancies Between Betting Lines and Metrics Sites Such as KenPom

A few years back, Middle Tennessee was a 12 seed going up against 5 seed Minnesota. All the metrics out there showed the Blue Raiders as the best 12 seed in the tourney while the Gophers were clearly the worst 5 seed. This led to Middle Tennessee being a strong pick over Minnesota, and they actually were listed as the favorite by most oddsmakers. If you didn’t do your research, you probably would have overlooked it and had your bracket take an early loss by selecting Minnesota.

Be Contrarian in Large Contests While Playing It Safer in Your Smaller Pools

If you’re chasing a top-three prize in a contest that will have over a million entries. you obviously aren’t going to give yourself a very good chance to win if you follow the public on majority of your picks. That strategy makes more sense in your office pool with 15 people where you only have to really nail your Final Four picks to get into the money. But in a large field, you have to treat it differently and hit some leverage picks by fading the public in certain spots. South Dakota State is a popular upset pick in Round 1, so if you think Providence can utilize their size advantage properly to hold serve, you would jump ahead a large portion of the field. Tailor your strategy and risk tolerance based off contest size just as you would in DFS.

Be Prepared to Throw Your Bracket in the Recycling Bin

Don’t get too high or too low. Go into your contests knowing it’s impossible to put together a perfect bracket, and no matter how much you research, your bracket is likely going to end up in the recycling bin after a random underdog pulls a shocking upset. Fear not, there are lots of betting opportunities, fantasy contests and even Sweet 16 bracket challenges out there so you will still be able to enjoy the tournament even if you lose a couple Final Four teams right away.

Be sure to enter the FTN Bracket Challenge contest where the top three get paid and it’s free to enter! You only need to sign up for a free FTN Bets account! 

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