MARK STORY | LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER via THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Mathematicians have generally held that the odds of filling out a perfect men’s NCAA Tournament bracket are 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 to one.
The 10 bracket tips below might not allow you to overcome the 9.2 quintillion-to-one odds against achieving perfection — but they could help you win your office pool:
1.) The bracket line where you are most likely to find upsets.
In recent years, the famous “12 over 5” upset line has been superseded.
While 12 seeds are a respectable 11-17 vs. No. 5s since 2012, that pales in comparison to what No. 11 seeds have compiled vs. No. 6s.
Over the same time frame, No. 11s are 15-13 vs. No. 6s.
2.) Identifying teams vulnerable to a round of 64 upset via the line.
According to the internet sports gaming site oddsshark.com, teams favored by five points or more have won 85.07 percent of their round of 64 games since 2009.
Conversely, teams favored by fewer than five points have won only 53.31 percent of their first-round games.
3.) Identifying teams vulnerable to a round of 64 upset via the stats.
The “advanced-metrics set” identifies teams with a higher than average turnover rate, poor 3-point shooting percentage and/or which average taking fewer free throws a game than their opponents are your prime upset candidates.
4.) Absent a compelling belief based on matchups, there is no reason to pick any team seeded lower than 12 to win in the round of 64.
Since 2012, No. 1 seeds are 27-1 (looking at you, Virginia) against No. 16s; No. 2 seeds are 24-4 vs. No. 15s; No. 3s are 23-5 vs. No. 14s; and No. 4 seeds are 23-5 against No. 13s.
5.) Where to find round of 32 upsets.
Over the past seven editions of March Madness, No. 2 and No. 3 seeds have been surprisingly vulnerable in the second game of the first weekend. Only 15 of 28 No. 2 seeds and the same number of No. 3 seeds have advanced to the round of 16 since 2012.
By comparison, No. 1 seeds have filled 22 of 28 possible round of 16 slots since 2012 and No. 4s 18 of 28.
6.) Three coaches of whom to be wary.
Virginia’s Tony Bennett has led the Cavaliers to six prior NCAA Tournaments — including three times as a No. 1 seed, once as a No. 2 — yet is a pedestrian 7-6 at UVa. in the Dance.
Purdue’s Matt Painter is 12-10 in the NCAA Tournament and has never led the Boilermakers to more than two victories in one tourney.
Cincinnati’s Mick Cronin is 6-8 at UC and 6-10 overall in the NCAA Tournament.
7.) Finding your Final Four.
Since 2002, 53 of the 68 teams that have reached the national semifinals have ranked in the top 30 in adjusted offensive efficiency in the Pomeroy Ratings (available at kenpom.com). Over the same time frame, 56 of 68 Final Four entrants have ranked in the top 30 in adjusted defensive efficiency.
Last year, there were eight teams who ranked in the top 30 in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency: Two of them, Villanova and Michigan, played for the national title.
As of Friday afternoon, there were 13 such “kenpom dual qualifiers” for 2019: Virginia, Gonzaga, Duke, Michigan State, North Carolina, Michigan, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia Tech, Houston, Louisville, Buffalo and Maryland.
8). No. 1 seeds cut down the nets.
Five of the seven NCAA champions since 2012 have been number one seeds. The only exceptions were No. 2 Villanova in 2016 and No. 7 Connecticut in 2014.
9.) Finding your champion.
Eleven of the 17 NCAA champs since 2002 have ranked in the Top 20 in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency in the Pomeroy Ratings.
This year, there are eight such teams: Virginia, Gonzaga, Duke, Michigan State, North Carolina, Michigan, Kentucky and Houston.
10.) The (school) color of a champion.
If you are the type who fills out your bracket based on something trivial like school colors, you might actually be on to something.
Starting in 2004, every NCAA men’s basketball champion but one has had blue among its primary school colors.
And the one exception — a team that wears red and black and plays its home games 74.1 miles west of where these words were written — subsequently vacated its title due to NCAA rules infractions.
Of the eight teams identified via the Pomeroy Ratings as most likely to win it all (see above) this season, six — Virginia, Gonzaga, Duke, North Carolina, Michigan and Kentucky — have blue in their school colors.
Happy bracketing to all.