Hardcourt Correspondent, White Cover Magazine
If I’m lucky, you’ve already filled out your bracket, printed it out, and stapled it to your office’s bulletin board. (They still have those, right?) I want to share my thoughts with you, but I also don’t want you riding my wave like an anemone sucking the side of a Blue Whale.
I have strategies that won’t work for you, and they certainly don’t always work for me. For example, I try to end my bracket with a Final pitting a No. 1 against a No. 2, and I never waver from that. I only do this because, in 2009, I accurately predicted a Final between No. 1 North Carolina and No. 2 Michigan State. It wasn’t brilliant by any means, but I’m just comfortable with it now and I trust the process. If I do something else right, I’ll probably adopt that new tradition, as well.
Really, the only way to think you’ve had a successful March Madness season — and, there’s really no such thing as success, since the “game” is won by sitting on a couch and accurately predicting which group of 20-year-olds is better than another group of 20-year-olds — is confidence. Comfort. Being cool in your own skin.
Do what’s easy. Do what works for you. If you start hyperventilating when you pencil No. 12 Oregon in for the Elite Eight, then don’t do it. You’ll know what’s right, and don’t be afraid of sticking with upsetters.
Enough of my sh*t. Let’s do this.
(*These are in no real order…)
1. Field Goal Percentage
March Madness is a battle between virgins and people who haven’t even started balding. They’re young. Like, really young. And, they make a lot of mistakes.
Consistency and efficiency are the most important foundations of any championship team — or, any team that just wants to win one game — and field goal percentage is the most important stat.
*Applicable Prediction: No. 11 Belmont over No. 6 Arizona
2. Don’t Trust the 3
So you can shoot threes. So what?
Have these guys ever done it in a situation like this? Have they hit that three in front of millions of people, or in front of Gus Johnson? Have they hit a three in NBA atmosphere?
Three-pointers are great, but so are powerplays in hockey. Neither is a guarantee and both are only valuable in the right situation.
3. Record vs. Top 25
Think of it this way: Gonzaga is the top-ranked team in the nation, and they deserve it. But, they’re only 1-2 against the Top 25 teams in the country. Hell, not only have they lost more than they won, but they only faced three contenders during the 2013 regular season.
Michigan is 4-5. Syracuse is just 6-5. Michigan State is only 5-6.
No. 2 Ohio State may be the worst of any contender at 5-7, although they deserve a Medal of Honor for playing 13 meaningful games.
Meanwhile, New Mexico is 4-0. Indiana is 7-2. Kansas is 5-1 and Georgetown is 6-2.
These Top 25 records will tell you a lot more about a team’s chances in the Sweet 16 or the Elite Eight than any actual ranking will.
*Applicable Prediction: No. 3 New Mexico over No. 2 Ohio State
4. (Recent) History
March Madness is kind of a roulette wheel. Every year is a new opportunity, and the Cinderella is never (at least, not usually) the same as the year before.
That said, history can matter because history comes down to the coaches.
Butler, Michigan State, and North Carolina will always have a chance in these tournaments. Their coaches know their players and they’ve been there before.
And, if they’ve been there before, they could go there again…
*Applicable Prediction: No. 5 VCU over No. 4 Michigan and No. 6 Butler over No. 3 Marquette
I know that’s a really boring fifth and final point, but rebounds are as important as field goal percentage when we’re talking about red-blooded glorified high school seniors. University players are rife with inexperience and blow ups that aren’t positive.
A team that rebounds in their end will get their chances in the other, and a team that rebounds in the other team’s end is the most dangerous thing there is.
Rebounds, man. Rebounds.
*Applicable Prediction: No. 8 North Carolina over No. 1 Kansas