The Bracket of Bracket Strategies

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After a wild first weekend, your bracket might be hurting.

That’s probably because you didn’t choose the correct strategy while filling it out. Don’t worry — I’ll help you see where you went wrong.

Below, I’ve arranged sixteen popular bracket strategies in the structure of a bracket (’tis the season, isn’t it?). Seed-by-seed, let’s examine the strategies and determine which has been most effective:

No. 1 Take the Favorites vs. No. 16 Eenie Meenie Miney Mo
You may think parity reigns supreme in college hoops, but 16 of the past 24 Final Four teams have been No. 1 or No. 2 seeds. This year, all are alive with the exception of Gonzaga and Georgetown. It’s a fairly reliable strategy.

Not so reliable is Eenie Meenie Miney Mo, the nursery rhyme commonly deployed by desperate bracketologists. An accurate Eenie Meenie would have netted a national title game of Notre Dame versus Villanova or, if done in reverse, Illinois versus Missouri. And my mother said to pick the very best one and…well, neither would have gotten you very far.

No. 8 Ask a Sportswriter vs. No. 9 Ask your Mom

I had New Mexico out of the West region. My mom had UConn. So that’s a wash.

No. 4 Point guard/Scorer/Big Man vs. No. 13 National Player of the Year
The formula for championships seems to be a great point guard, a go-to scorer (could be the same player) and an imposing big man. In this year’s field, Indiana and Miami best fit the mold.

The One-Man Show, while exciting, doesn’t always result in a Final Four run: Kevin Durant (second round), Jimmer Fredette (Sweet Sixteen) and Blake Griffin (Elite Eight) were all stopped short of the Promised Land. This season, Otto Porter — a strong contender for the Wooden Award — didn’t make it out of Round One.

Otto the Orange (Getty Images)

No. 5 The Match-up Game vs. No. 12 The Mascot Game
You know the old saying: The NCAA tournament is all about match-ups. Syracuse, now in its fourth Sweet Sixteen in the past five years, got two favorable ones in Montana and California.

If you opted for the infamous mascot game, it would be hard to justify an Orange beating a Grizzly Bear and then a Golden Bear. Actually, it would be hard to justify an Orange beating anything.

No. 6 Go with recent trends vs. No. 11 Go against the trends

Amidst the Madness of March, you can always count on a few things: Michigan State making a run while Georgetown, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame flame out early. Since 2010, those three are a combined 4-11 in the tournament. Every loss was against an underdog, and Notre Dame and Georgetown were defeated by double-digit seeds each time.

It’s no fun to just follow the trends, though. Don’t you want to be the first person to accurately predict a No. 16 over a No. 1? I sure do. I’d take that over winning a pool any day (which is part of the reason why I never win my pool).

Brad Stevens (AP)

No. 3 Coaches with good vision vs. No. 14 Coaches who wear glasses
Get this stat: Only two guys rocking the specs — Brad Stevens and Roy Williams — have made the Final Four since 2003. Of course, in 2003, there was a trio in the national semifinal: Williams, Tom Crean and Jim Boeheim.

So if the phenomenon occurs once every 10 years, then yes, it was worth betting on the bifocals in 2013.

Unfortunately, though, the strategy didn’t pan out. Just three vision-impaired coaches remain in the field, and two — Boeheim and Crean — face each other in the Sweet Sixteen. I guess hindsight is 20/20, and so are the best coaches.

No. 7 Players with tournament experience vs. No. 10 Coaches with tournament experience as players
Jeff Withey, Travis Releford and Elijah Johnson were all integral to Kansas’ run to the 2012 title game. Same for Louisville’s Peyton Siva, Russ Smith and Gorgui Dieng. So far, so good for those battle-tested No. 1 seeds.

As for former players, many of you remember New Mexico coach Steve Alford from his standout career at Indiana, which culminated in a 1987 NCAA championship. Hope you didn’t recognize his name, say “Oh wow, Steve Alford was pretty good back in the day” and pick the Lobos for that reason. They were ousted in the first round.

No. 2 Research each team vs. No. 15 Pick schools you didn’t know existed
It’s always best to be informed on injuries, style of play, individual statistics and any other element that could factor into a particular matchup. Except sometimes it pays to not care.

If you picked Florida Gulf Coast because the school sounded funny and you’d never heard of it, congratulations. This is your year.

This is an odd year, for sure. It’s a year where FGCU became the first No. 15 seed to reach the Sweet Sixteen. It’s a year where Brad Stevens went home early. It’s a year where a coach wearing neon-yellow glasses knocked off a No. 1 seed.

It’s a year where convention may not win your office pool. Picking the favorites, researching each matchup — those methods seem obvious, but maybe the guy who went with mascots will end up winning (he probably has the Hurricanes), or the guy who picked Marquette because he likes the name “Buzz.”

So when this tournament is a wrap, which of the sixteen strategies will have been most effective?

Well, that’ll be difficult to prove. There are just too many variables in play. Really, there’s only one fair way to pick a winner in the bracket of bracket strategies.

And it goes something like this: Eenie, Meenie, Miney…

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