Although my beloved alma mater Syracuse will not be a part of the 2017 NCAA Tournament, my enthusiasm for the event can never be diminished.
The NCAA Tournament is idiot proof. You can’t screw up four straight days of wall-to-wall nonstop basketball action.
Buzzer-beaters, Cinderella’s and Blue bloods.
The NCAA Tournament has it all, and I’m sure for many of you it’s the time of the year where you are starting to put together a plan for filling out a bracket.
After all, the office pool awaits. Even if you are not the college basketball aficionado, you have to be in it to win it!
It will be very difficult for me to give you the crash course in the College Basketball season in 550 words or less, so instead I’ll generously pass along a few tips that may be the difference in winning your office pool for the first time.
And yes, these tips can certainly be taken with a grain of salt considering I picked Michigan State to win it all last year. (Michigan State lost on the second day of the NCAA Tournament in 2016).
TIP 1: Vegas knows! Read between “the lines.”
If you’re serious about winning your bracket pool, I highly recommend looking at the Vegas odds for not only the first round of the tournament, but the odds regarding the Final Four and the National Championship winner as well.
They are a useful guide and this year’s bracket is a perfect example of why Vegas lines can be useful.
For example, Dayton is a seven seed in the South region. They are a 6.5-point underdog against Wichita State.
On the surface it would appear Dayton is the better team because they are the higher seed, but that’s simply inaccurate.
Wichita is the better team.
Another example: if you notice a matchup between a three or four seed going up against a double-digit seed and the point spread appears to be way too low and the number appears to be too good to be true, well it probably is.
TIP 2: Pick at least one #1 seed to make the Final Four.
Of course everyone is a sucker for Cinderella, but more often than not, talent prevails late in the NCAA Tournament. I always encourage an upset pick or two, but we’ll save that for later.
Consider that over the last 32 years, there has been at least one or two number-one seeds in the Final Four 25 times.
It’s okay to get creative with your bracket, but make sure at least one of the top seeds is represented.
TIP 3: Pick at least one 2 or 3 seed to be eliminated in the Round of 32
This is where creativity needs to come into play, but once again the numbers are on my side. Only once in the last 32 years have all of the top three seeds made it through the Sweet 16.
TIP 4: Pick at least one 12 seed to advance to the Sweet 16.
Kids, this is where we combine the knowledge of Tip 1 into our thought process for Tip 4. For example, in this year’s NCAA Tournament, fifth-seed Minnesota is only a one-point favorite over twelfth seed Middle Tennessee State.
Vegas knows. Middle Tennessee State is a very good team. They defeated Michigan State in last year's tournament, they are experienced, and they are under-seeded.
Meanwhile, Minnesota is over-seeded.
This is the perfect chance to pick a 12 seed and the numbers tell us that you shouldn’t be shy in advancing at least one 12 seed to the Sweet 16.
Twelve seeds have won 20 of their last 46 games in round two and a double-digit seed has made the Sweet 16 30 out of the last 32 years.
TIP 5: Have fun!
Sometimes we can have all of this data, all of this research and yet our bracket can still go up in flames.
After all, who had Syracuse in the Final Four last season? Who predicted that UCONN as a seven seed would win the Tournament in 2014?
Sometimes, you just never know.
After all, it is March Madness.
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