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Nick Hiltbrand

Tournament Time!


So here we are, about 36 hours from the greatest 4-day stretch in sports... Unfortunately it's not 100% fun and games, for guys like me at least, cause some of us like to pretend like we know what we're talking about when it comes to filling out the winners of 63 games over the course of the next few weeks (Not to mention how those of you who are in someway financially dependant on whatever winnings you'll take home). I have some philosophies/tips on filling out your bracket that you can actually take and run with and not credit me when you win, or ignore and make sure to laugh at me when I get 3 of the sweet sixteen teams right.


First off, I'm a math guy, so I like to no the odds of things. I like to know the history of certain situations coming about and base my picks on the likelihood of them happening (In a way we all do, I just think I dive into it a little more than the average person)


... For instance, did you know that only once over the past 24 years has a team not seeded 1, 2 or 3 won the national championship? The one team that did was a four seed (Arizona '97), so you won't see me picking Wisconsin to cut down the nets for reasons other than my not being confident in their ability to consistently score in the 50s.


Now I can't take all the credit, I didn't compile all of these stats on my own... You can usually find them quite easily, and if you're a loyal follower of WFOB I'll save you the 90 seconds it takes to google it and show you the stats here. If you don't like the heavy reading, here's a few tips from the article: At least one 12-seed has beaten a 5 seed in 22 of the past 24 years (and at least 2 have in 11 of the past twelve), only once in the past 16 years have all 2-seeds reached the sweet sixteen (and all 4-seeds have never reached it since the field expanded to 64 teams)... Don't get too crazy with the upsets though because only once has a 13, 14 and 15 seed all won a game in the same tournament since the field expanded to 64... So that's the sort of logic (if any actually exists) I try and apply to my bracket as a way of measuring if it's too crazy or conservative... Now to my gut feelings...


MID MAJORS: Let me just get it out in the open to start, I generally don't like/respect mid majors. The only ones I even partially come around on are the ones who have consistently shown that come tourny time they don't mess around. They need to show that either a. when seeded low they're usually good for an upset b. when seeded high they're actually capable of winning beyond what their seeding suggests that they should, high standards sure, but I'm willing to bet that I'm not getting burned by their misled hype nearly as much as the average person. So pretty much if your name is anything other than Gonzaga, Butler or Xavier I'm not wasting a whole lot of time wondering what kind of damage your team is going to do. Even Gonzaga I like as a low seed, but HATE as I high seed due to how they've handled high praise in the past. I'm not giving New Mexico really any chance to make it past the sweet 16, Steve Alford was used to doing so as a player, has not really had the same sort of postseason success as a coach.


COACHES: People have their theories on guard play or other things and how they are the key to the tournament, mine is seasoned coaches who are highly accomplished. Quick! Name me three current NBA players from Michigan State the past 10 years... Most of you either couldn't name one outside of Zac Randolph or have impressive googling skills. The point being not many people look back to the CRAZY success MSU has enjoyed over the past decade and point towards players, It's mostly Izzo. Now Izzo is the best in game tournament coach in my opinion, but I don't put a lot of the other big names too far behind him. If your last name is Matta, Donovan, Krzyzewski (yes I had to look up the spelling), Pitino, Self, Izzo, Ryan or Howland I'm going to usually give you the nod if I think the matchup is otherwise pretty close.


STREAKS: People really buy into "Momentum going into the playoffs" in a lot of sports, and I do too in some, just not NCAA basketball. For every 2011 Uconn you remind me of I can name you a similar 2006 Syracuse team that surprisingly ran through the big east tourny and then did nothing in the playoffs. I'm not saying streaks/momentum hurt a team, I'm just saying I don't really buy into it being a huge advantage... I also don't think distance from home is all that big a factor as well.


While I think I could go on for another 50 paragraphs, I think I'll end my spiel here... Can't have Josh looking at all my secrets when we have a lunch on the line! If you only take one thing from this I hope it is this: Above all else, enjoy the games, because it's the best time of the year in sports... That and it'll be only baseball from there pretty much until August!


- Nick


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