It's just about time for the madness to commence, which means many are in the final stages of filling out a bracket for your office's NCAA Tournament. We've enlisted the help of Andrew Clark, a UMass grad and Suffolk law student who has written a guidebook called "Bracketeering: The Layman's Guide to Picking the Madness in March."
Clark has taken some of the principles in his book, applied them to this year's tournament, and shared his insight. Click through the gallery for some advice and tips on filling out your sheet. Next
Caveat of the three-pointer
You want to be wary of teams that rely on too much of their offense from the three-point shot. A team may shoot the lights out on most nights. But what about those mid-majors who cruised through the year on 7 or 8 three pointers a game, which accounted for a third of their offensive production?
What happens if they face a team that shuts down the perimeter. Pretty soon, that three-point production goes out the window, along with their tournament hopes.
Among the teams that rely most on the three-ball are Iowa State (9.8/game), Creighton (8.8), and Belmont (8.5). Next
If you’re looking for those wonderful, funderful Cinderella teams, the ones that will earn you big props from your friends, family, and co-workers for spotting, then you need to do some work. Look for well-balanced squads with impressive scoring margins, solid rebounding and turnover margins, and few flaws.
Also, make sure that they aren’t playing one of the more dominant teams in the field. An example of a potential Cinderella this year? 14-seed Davidson is a top-20 scoring margin team that thrives at the free-throw line and doesn’t turn the ball over.
They could make some noise against Marquette, one of the weaker top seeds in the tourney.
5-12 and 6-11 matchups
Roughly a third of the time, the underdog will win in these pesky match ups. This year, watch out for teams like Belmont (a squad that is dangerous from beyond the arc), Bucknell (strong defensively), Minnesota, and Ole Miss to cause some mismatches in those second round games. Next
Importance of big stat differences
It gets pretty difficult to pick those 7-10 and 8-9 games because they usually feature teams that are pretty equal to each other across the board. So it’s important to try and look for big statistical differences to help you navigate these decisions.
On the surface, the Pitt and Wichita State matchup looks pretty close, as you have a 24-8 team squaring off against a 26-8. But consider that Pitt has a +14.2 scoring margin, creates nearly ten additional possessions each game, and has a top ten scoring defense. These stats make it much easier to make picks. Next
No missing players
The numbers may be impressive going into the tournament, but you always have to make sure that no key players have gone down (or been tossed off the team) before the tournament begins. Mathias Ward, Montana’s top scorer, is done for the year. So even though Montana was already a 13th seed against Syracuse, their chances for an upset have gone way down.
Injuries can make a huge difference and is definitely something to consider. Next
Look closely at a team’s numbers on the court rather than its win-loss record.
It’s pretty easy to get impressed with a team’s overall record. But there are a lot of factors that may impact a team’s record. This year, Gonzaga cruised to a 31-2 mark, but consider that they played in the WCC, which isn’t exactly the strongest conference in college basketball (though, that said, Gonzaga has a very good chance of making the title game).
On the other end of things, a team may have a lackluster record by losing a collection of close games and be one of the better teams in the tourney. Just look at the 2002 Indiana Hoosiers, who sported a 20-11 record yet made the Finals. Next
The conference factor
It shouldn’t be your go-to metric, but when aiding with close calls, keep in mind that a team’s statistics may be inflated or deflated based on the conference that team plays in. Two teams may be dead-even statistically, from their scoring margin to their turnover margin.
But if one plays in the Big East and the other plays in the Big Sun, then the advantage should be given to the former of the two. Next
How to pick the champion
When it comes to crowning the champion, the first thing to look at is the scoring margin of the two teams involved. Next, look at what the team’s created possession margins are (Rebound Margin + Turnover Margin).
If a winner is still not clear, compare how efficient each team is with the basketball, compare fouling troubles and free-throw percentages, and keep looking for ways to find out who will take home the hardware (there are a number of ways that statistics can be used to aid in this process). Back to the beginning
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