The key to March Madness is, quite simply, logic. Upsets are fun, but they’re titled that way because, well, they’re not really supposed to happen. “You’re not trying to pick upsets as much as you’re trying to pick teams that have the best chance to advance,” says Jay Bilas, ESPN college basketball analyst.
“Since 1985, there have been six teams that have won a game in the first round as a 15 or 16 seed. None of them have [advanced past] the second round.” Instead, work backward from the Final Four—choose the teams that are most likely to survive and then trace their paths to the first game. Also, remember that a team is only as good as its players.
“The teams that wind up doing the best usually have [more] pro players,” Bilas says. You should also check out sites like kenpom.com or basketballprospectus.com and populate your bracket with teams in the top 20 in offensive and defensive efficiency— they’re your best bet for the Final Four.
Bilas suggests looking deeper into the schedules of the mid-major programs to determine how they’ll fare. “One of the things you can look at is how [they did] against the big shots on their schedule,” he says. All that said, some- times a guess is best. “When all else fails, I go with the tougher mas- cot,” Bilas says. “There’s no way that a blue jay is beating a grizzly!”
COACH K’s CORNER
Duke University and USA Men’s Basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski weighs in on competition at all levels.
“We practice once [a day], but each one of those [pro] guys will wake up early in the morning and do yoga, pilates, lift, stretch, and have team meetings,” he says.
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“The very first thing is to make sure [the players] have adjusted well socially on campus,” Krzyzewski says. “The second thing is making sure they are not completely devoured by academics. Those two aspects, if they’re not done right, you’re going to have less of a guy by the time he hits the court.”
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“The thing is to just love to play,” he says. “Be a baller. Be somebody who loves the game. Don’t bring your occupation to the court. Be a guy.”