It is less than 24 hours until the tourney is in full-swing, and you STILL have no idea who to pick. No problem: that’s what we are here for! We have crunched the numbers to see what kind of teams succeed/fail in March, and then applied them to this year’s crop to see who will win and who will go home early. So, read on and let us know which of these 15 great tips will be the most helpful to you.
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 Cal, Duke, and Pitt before penciling them is as your champ.
TIP #2: All but 4 champs since 1985 have averaged at least 77 PPG.
STRATEGY: Offense wins championships so Indiana, Mississippi, NC State, and VCU 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 wins it all, so do not pick Gonzaga, Marquette, or New Mexico to win it all.
TIP #4: The last coach to win a title in his 1st year as head coach at a school was Tubby Smith at Kentucky in 1998.
STRATEGY: History is not on the side of Jim Crews (St. Louis) or Bruce Weber (Kansas State).
TIP #5: Since UNLV won the title in 1990, each of the past 22 champs has been from a power-conference: ACC (8), SEC (6), Big East (4), Pac-12 (2), Big 12 (1), Big 10 (1).
STRATEGY: You might want to think twice before picking a mid-major team from the A-10 or Mountain West to go all the way.
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 Illinois (John Groce: 2 prior appearances) might need a little more seasoning before they 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 Memphis (SOS: 108) and Belmont (SOS: 128).
TIP #8: Only 2 teams have won a title after not being in the tournament the previous year (1986 Louisville/2003 Syracuse).
STRATEGY: Arizona (2012 NIT) and Miami (2012 NIT) are finally ready for prime-time, but not ready to win a title.
TIP #9: There are 10 active coaches who have won at least 67% of their NCAA tournament games (minimum 5 appearances).
STRATEGY: Do not sleep on Steve Fisher (66.7 W/L%) to win a couple of games.
TIP #10: There are 9 teams who have won at least 85% of their games in the round of 64 (minimum 5 games).
STRATEGY: Cincinnati has won 14 of its 16 opening games (87.5%), and North Carolina is almost automatic (24 wins in 25 opening games = 96%).
TIP #11: There are 8 teams who have won at least 75% of their games in the round of 32 (minimum 5 games).
STRATEGY: If Davidson can get by Marquette in its opener, they have won 4 of their 5 games (80%) when they had a chance to make the Sweet 16.
TIP #12: There are 8 teams who have won at least 70% of their Sweet 16 games (minimum 5 games).
STRATEGY: Oklahoma State has won 8 of its 11 Sweet 16 games (72.7%), but only Temple has been perfect (7-of-7).
TIP #13: There are 9 teams who have won at least 70% of their Elite 8 games (minimum 5 games).
STRATEGY: UCLA has won 18 of its 22 Elite 8 games (81.8%), and UNLV has won 4 of its 5 Elite 8 games (80%).
TIP #14: Only 2 teams have won at least 80% of their Final 4 games (minimum 5 games).
STRATEGY: Michigan is 5-1 in the Final 4 (83.3%), and Georgetown is 4-1 in the Final 4 (80%).
TIP #15: Only 1 coach since 1999 has won a title without having any previous Final 4 experience (Bill Self in 2008).
STRATEGY: I am looking at you John Beilein and Travis Ford.