Programming note: The Blitz will be at Revelry on Richmond the next two days. We have the tourney on ESPN 97.5, so these shows will be available only on the ESPN 97.5 app, Tunein app or the stream at ESPN 97.5. It will be uncensored and will feature a lot of riffing off what is happening in the tournament. So it will be either really good or really awful.
By FRED FAOUR
The tournament starts today, and if you waited until the last minute to fill out your bracket…welcome to the club. Your hat and T-shirt are in the mail.
We have a free bracket where you can win cool stuff at gowmedia.com/brackets/ (brought to you by BBVA compass.
If you missed it yesterday, RJ Bell came on the show and dropped some amazing tips and knowledge on the NCAA Tournament. (Hour No. 2 on yesterday’s podcast).
He gave us three key tips you can follow that will help immensely. These are all based on historical trends: (You can find more on RJ’s web site, pregame.com
No. 1: The more people your bracket is competing against, the more upsets you need to pick.
This is simple math. More competitors means more brackets you have to outscore, and playing straight chalk will not get you there. In a smaller pool, it’s less necessary to score big.
No. 2: Consider the Vegas odds when picking your bracket. Most novices focus on the team’s seeds.
For instance, Middle Tennessee is a pick ’em against Minnesota, but is a 12 seed to Minnesota’s five seed. The biggest discrepancy is Wichita State, a 10 seed facing No. 7 Dayton. The committee says Dayton. Vegas, which knows more than the committee, has Wichita State as a SIX point favorite.
No. 3: Each Round has historical ceilings – advancing any seed worse than that is bucking history:
Sweet Sixteen – Less than 2% worse than #12.
Elite Eight – Last 32 years, only one seed worse than #11.
Final Four – Last 38 years, only four seeds worse than #9.
So basically you can eliminate higher seeds the deeper you get into the tournament. It’s a relatively simple formula, and historically it has been money. RJ goes into much more detail on the podcast and I highly recommend you check it out. The segment was roughly 15 minutes long.
Using R.J.’s tips can help you fill out a last minute bracket with some knowledge on your side.
Some other quick tips: At least one first four school has advanced since the tournament went to 68 teams in 2011…Don’t ignore the stars. Teams with one dominant player tend to do better in the tournament than their actual seeding.
If you miss out on the brackets and plan on making a few plays…We highly recommend you follow A.J. Hoffman on Twitter. @ajisthereal
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I don’t follow college basketball all that closely and do not pretend to be an expert, but I do like to make plays on the tournament. For me, these are recreational, have-an-interest-in-the-game type plays. In other words, I am just like everybody else. This is not horse racing or football where I study all year long. Really it is just for fun.
With that in mind, here are a few possible plays I have compiled from talking to people who know college basketball:
RJ also mentioned the pros are on Oklahoma State plus 2 against Michigan, and he gives a lot of strong reasons why, so passing that one along.
Purdue is a sneaky good team and is built for the tournament, but I like Vermont to cover the 10 in the opener. Vermont has not lost since December when they hung in there with Butler. They have not beaten anything of note, but they should have enough to keep it close.
Finally, the gap is closing on the 16s and 1s. You won’t see an upset this year, but you might see one cover. Why not South Dakota State plus 22.5 against Gonzaga? The Zags are good, but SDSU has won six in a row and is playing its best basketball. Zags win, but 22.5 is a lot of points.