The possibilities are nearly endless.
As you examine your NCAA Tournament bracket this week and consider the possible game outcomes, it’s easy to get your brain all tangled up. But as you hunt for your March Madness cinderellas and pick your Final Four favorites, take a second to pause and realize that there are some general trends you should follow.
Here are some tips to help you optimize your 2022 March Madness bracket.
Always pick at least one 12-5 upset
One of the most well-known March Madness trends, but it’s known for a reason. A No. 12 seed has advanced out of the first round in 31 of the past 36 tournaments. New Mexico State, UAB, Richmond and the winner of the First Four game between Indiana and Wyoming will make up this year’s No. 12s. At least one of them will be playing into the weekend.
Also, pick at least one No. 13 seed to advance
It’s not as heralded as the previous entry, but the 13-over-4 upset has become pretty common. At least one has taken place in 10 of the previous 13 tournaments. This year, one No. 13 seed really jumps out: the South Dakota State Jackrabbits, who lead the nation in effective field-goal percentage and 3-point percentage. Their game versus Providence will be a highly entertaining battle of styles as the Friars want to slow the pace and get physical; the Jackrabbits want to run and gun. The Friars are only a two-point favorite currently, according to DraftKings Sportsbook.
A No. 2 seed will fall early
This year’s quartet of No. 2 seeds is quite formidable. Big East Tournament champ Villanova; Auburn, which spent a large chunk of this season at the top of the polls; Duke, a young but excessively talented squad led by an all-time great coach making his final tourney journey; and Kentucky, which, when healthy, might be the most talented team in the country. However, history states that one of these teams will be making an early exit. A No. 2 seed has bowed out in either the first or second round in 22 of the previous 24 tournaments. Two such upsets took place last year, including Ohio State’s shocking defeat to 15th-seeded Oral Roberts.
While an upset of that magnitude is still rare, you should probably advance a No. 7 or a No. 10 seed into the Sweet 16 in your bracket. And if you’re feeling lucky with that team, well ... read on.
A team seeded 7th or lower will likely make the Elite Eight
Some underdogs don’t stop after the first or the second round. A team seeded at No. 7 or lower has advanced to a regional final in nine of the past 10 tournaments. We had two such teams take an extended stay in the 2021 tourney — Oregon State and UCLA. The Bruins reached the Final Four.
Pick an unconventional Final Four
UCLA may have shocked many with their trek from the First Four to the Final Four last year, but you will probably see at least one relatively low seed make the trip to New Orleans for this year’s Final Four. A team seeded 7th or lower has advanced to the Final Four in seven of the past eight tournaments. Since 2011, 10 such teams have made it out of their regional. So while you should have at least one No. 1 seed in your Final Four — but never all four! — make sure you leave some room for a middle seed.
Your champion should be a No. 1 seed
Although it is extremely rare for all four top seeds to make the Final Four — it’s happened only once — it is almost just as rare that none of them reach the final weekend. That’s occurred just twice. Odds are that two No. 1 seeds will advance out of their regional, and one of them will cut down the nets at the end. A No. 1 seed has claimed seven of the last nine titles, including each of the last five. Also worth noting that each of the past five champions were No. 1 seeds in the previous year’s tourney. Gonzaga and Baylor, which met in the title game as No. 1 seeds last season, fit that bill this year.