Statistical Tactics: Bracket Success by the Numbers

Even an amateur knows that #1 seeds always win their first game and at least one #12 seed will probably pull off an upset.  However, to fill out a winning bracket you need to dig deep into the history of the tourney and analyze all the available stats.  CHD’s Jon Teitel did all the dirty work and has you covered, so see below for 16 of the sweetest tips and then pick your winners accordingly.


TIP #1: No team that lost its opening game in its conference tournament has ever gone on to win the NCAA title the same year.
STRATEGY: The extra few days of rest have not proven helpful, so take a long hard look at Syracuse and Villanova before penciling them in as your champ.

TIP #2: Only 4 champs since 1985 have averaged fewer than 77 PPG.
STRATEGY: Offense wins championships so Duke (78.6 PPG) and Louisville (82.1 PPG) have a leg up on the rest of the field.

TIP #3: Since 1979, the only national champion without a McDonald’s All-American on its roster was Maryland in 2002.
STRATEGY: A coach who can recruit the best high school players often win it all, so beware of picking Wichita State or Wisconsin to win it all.

TIP #4: The last coach to win a title in his first year as coach at a school was Tubby Smith at Kentucky in 1998 after inheriting a powerhouse team from Rick Pitino.
STRATEGY: History is not on the side of Steve Alford (UCLA) or Craig Neal (New Mexico).

TIP #5: Since UNLV won the title in 1990 each of the past 23 champs have come from a power-conference: ACC (8), SEC (6), Big East (5), Pac-12 (2), Big 12 (1), Big 10 (1).
STRATEGY: You might want to think twice before picking anyone from the A-10 or MWC to win it all.

TIP #6: Only 2 coaches with 4 or fewer prior tournament appearances have won the title since 1985 (Steve Fisher/Tom Izzo).
STRATEGY: Teams like Iowa State (Fred Hoiberg: two prior appearances) and UMass (Derek Kellogg: zero prior appearances) might need a little more seasoning before they can win it all.

TIP #7: Each champ since 2002 had a strength of schedule that was among the top-75 in the nation.
STRATEGY: You have to play the best to learn how to beat the best, so stay away from Cincinnati (SOS: 79) and VCU (SOS: 83).

TIP #8: Only two teams have won an NCAA title after not being in the tournament the previous year (1986 Louisville/2003 Syracuse).
STRATEGY: Baylor (2013 NIT) and Virginia (2013 NIT) are finally ready for primetime, but not quite ready to win a title.

TIP #9: There are eight active coaches who have won at least 67% of their NCAA tournament games (minimum five appearances).
STRATEGY: Do not expect Kentucky’s John Calipari (38-13) or Ohio State’s Thad Matta (23-11) to be catching an early flight home.

TIP #10: There are three teams who have won at least 90% of their games in the round of 64 (minimum five games).
STRATEGY: ASU (5-0) has never lost their opening game and North Carolina (25-1) is almost as automatic.

TIP #11: There are eight teams who have won at least 75% of their games in the round of 32 (minimum five games).
STRATEGY: Arizona (15-4) is looking good vs. the Gonzaga-Oklahoma State winner, but Wichita State better pray that they face Kansas State instead of Kentucky (23-6) in the third round.

TIP #12: There are five teams who have won at least 80% of their Sweet 16 games (minimum five games).
STRATEGY: North Carolina (24-6) and Providence (4-1) have each won 80% of their Sweet 16 games, so the winner of their second round match-up will have history on their side if they can make it to Madison Square Garden.

TIP #13: There are six teams who have won at least 75% of their Elite 8 games (minimum five games).
STRATEGY: Louisville has won 10 of its 13 Elite 8 games (76.9%) and Cincinnati has won six of its eight Elite 8 games (75%).

TIP #14: Only one team has won more than 80% of its Final 4 games (minimum five games).
STRATEGY: Michigan is 6-1 in the Final 4, so if you pick them to survive the Midwest then you might want to pick them to get to the title game.

TIP #15: BYU has played in the most NCAA tournaments (27) without ever making the Final 4.
STRATEGY: If the Cougars could not reach the Final 4 with Danny Ainge/Jimmer Fredette, they will probably not make it with this year’s squad.

TIP #16: There are nine teams who have won at least 80% of their NCAA tournament games in their home state (minimum five games).
STRATEGY: You should bank on UCLA (25-1) winning in San Diego and Duke (32-5) winning in Raleigh.