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Column: Tips for filling out your bracket and beating your friends

By Tim Fontenault
On March 11, 2014

The odds of filling out a perfect bracket for the NCAA Tournament are one in 9.2 quintillion.
The odds of being struck by lightning are one in 3,000.
The odds of being born a conjoined twin are one in 200,000.
There is a one in 178,100 chance that you will date a supermodel.
Millions of dollars have been offered up if someone can fill out a perfect bracket. Warren Buffet has offered $1 billion for a perfect bracket this year.
You probably will not fill out a perfect bracket. There is only a one in 9.2 quintillion chance that I am wrong about that, but there is a good chance that you have what it takes to fill out a better bracket than your friends.
The time is rapidly approaching when you will need to fill out your bracket, predicting the outcome of all 63 do-or-die games. Before you do, here is some advice for producing the best bracket possible and giving you the best chance to beat your friends.
Only do one bracket
First things first, there is nothing I hate more than when people make multiple brackets.
"It was a good year; I picked the right champion," said the excited bracket winner who picked Florida, Duke and Wichita State in various brackets.
Listening to someone talk about how great their bracket is when they made four or five different versions is irritating. However, there it is the self-conflict that frustrates me the most.
Filling out more than one bracket starts to put doubts in your head. The reason the odds of filling out a perfect bracket are one in 9.2 quintillion is that there are 9.2 quintillion ways to predict the outcome of a 63-game tournament.
I know that personally, if I were to start filling in multiple outcomes on different brackets, I would lose my mind. I take part in multiple bracket pools. If I put one result in one pool, there is no way that I can keep from putting the same result in another pool.
Be confident in one selection, and stick with the teams you pick. That leads me to my next point.
No tinkering, Tinkerbell. Be confident!
The worst way to lose in your bracket pool is to tinker with your picks after making them.
I know this from experience. Every year, I find myself struggling to be confident in my selections, and the games that trip me up are the ones that I go back and forth on from Sunday night through Thursday morning.
Obviously, start filling your bracket out in pencil - unless your bracket is online, of course. Do some research, then go with your gut. Look over your predictions once or twice before finalizing your picks. Once you pick them, stick with them.
Obviously, this section serves two purposes.
In high school, our gym teacher used to grind my gears in March. He would always go chalk on his bracket. For those new to the phenomenon that is March Madness, to go chalk on your bracket means to pick the highest seed in every game.
Here are some stats to mull over.
Florida Gulf Coast was a No. 15 seed last year and made the Sweet Sixteen. Cleveland State (1986) and Chattanooga (1997) did so as No. 14 seeds.
In two straight tournaments, a No. 13 seed has made the Sweet Sixteen.
In 2011, the year UConn last won the national championship, the Huskies beat No. 8 seed Butler in the Final after the Bulldogs beat No. 11 seed VCU in the Semifinals.
Wichita State was a No. 9 seed last year when it nearly beat Louisville in the Final Four.
Going with all higher seeds is a bad idea, especially if that higher seed is Kansas.
Be careful of the Jayhawks. Sure, Kansas is good, but as a guy who put too much faith in Bill Self's team three years in a row, I have no intention of doing it again. That means I see the Jayhawks crashing and burning before the Final Four.
Four No. 1 seeds? Not this year.
In 2008, all four No. 1 seeds made the Final Four. That is the only time that has ever happened.
Surely, it will happen again, but this is not the year. The tournament field is way too deep. There are going to be No. 7 seeds with a legitimate case for the national title.
Don't pick upsets for the sake of picking upsets
You filled out your bracket, and your biggest upset is a No. 9 over a No. 8. Do not freak out. Stick to your guns. Upsets happen, but that does not mean a 15 is a sure thing to beat a 2.
Avoid personal biases
Everyone wants their favorite team to win, but that should not dictate your decisions. This is about making money. If you lose your bracket pool and your team wins, that is perfect. If they lose and you win money, that works too.

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