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The Five Unofficial Rules of Filling Out Your NCAA Bracket



The greatest weekend in sports is finally upon us. Nobody’s bracket is busted (yet), and fans of at least 20 teams think they have a legitimate shot at the Final Four. Although the tournament officially starts today with the play-in games First Round, I don’t consider things official until Thursday’s games. While I’m usually excited to fill out my bracket, this year has been a challenge. In a year where seemingly every good team has taken a turn at the #1 seed, you get the feeling that virtually anything can happen.

That makes picking a bracket even more impossible than usual.

Quick note: I only fill out one bracket. I do this for a couple reasons. First, I am a man. Second, it makes it much easier to figure out if I should be happy or sad as games are played. I won’t judge you too harshly if you have several brackets with a few different champions. I’ll just say, “grow up” and “a man must have a code.” Pick one bracket and roll with it.

Now, when it comes to filling out your bracket, I follow a few simple rules. These mean more in my head than in real life, but they at least make me feel better about picking Team X over Team Y. Here are a few things to consider when picking your winners and losers:

Location, location, location –

Recently, the NCAA has mixed up the locations of the tournament’s first two rounds. Schools given a lower seed can end up playing closer to home.

This year, Michigan (South Region) and Michigan State (Midwest) get to play their first two games outside of Detroit. Cal (East), a 12-seed, will “host” the higher seeded UNLV in San Jose. Also, Kansas (East) and Kansas State (West) will play down the road in Kansas City. As you can see, these locations have little to do with the region each team will play in. Something to remember. 2013-3-16-nc-state-miami-acc-tournament-4_3_r536_c534[1]

Age matters –

You hear about this every year, but it always seems to play a factor: more experienced teams do better in the tournament. Miami proved this over the course of the regular season. The Hurricanes’ best players are 19-24(!) years old. Don’t discount the poise and physical superiority some of these grown ass men have over other freshmen and sophomore-laden teams.

That gives an edge to Miami and Saint Louis (among others), teams that are led by Junior and Seniors. Saint Louis plays in the brutal Midwest Region, so their experience could be an edge against the more well-known teams they’ll face.

Guard play –

We’ve seen the decline of the big man in the NBA, where there are only 30 teams. There are just as few great big men in college, except they are spread over four times as many teams. That means teams with great guard play have a real advantage in the tourney. These are the players with the ball most of the time, so those who run their offense the best and limit turnovers are ones to focus on.

That means Michigan (Trey Burke), Miami (Shane Larkin), Louisville (Peyton Siva), and Ohio State (Aaron Craft) lead teams that could make a serious run. Let’s hope I’m wrong about Craft though.

The Steph Curry factor –


This rule is dedicated to the players who can drop 40 points in a random game. Curry took over the entire tournament in 2008, leading Davidson to within one missed three pointer of the Final Four. There are a few dangerous players in this year’s tournament. I’d move a few teams a few games ahead of where you normally would on your bracket.

Doug McDermott (Creighton), Otto Porter (Georgetown), and Nate Wolters (South Dakota State) can all get hot. Think long and hard about crossing their teams off early on.

Blind, dumb luck –

Which is why the person who picks the teams by where they’d rather vacation will win the office pool.

I have a few other rules (Always pick one 12-seed over a 5-seed for instance), and The Oracle (aka my Dad…who already knows who will win it all) on my side…which is all well and good until I remember that the last rule is really the only one that matters. I still enjoy the hell out of the tournament and can’t wait until the official start on Thursday/Friday when there are games from noon to midnight.

As far as my predictions, I have Duke out in the second round, Michigan State, Kansas State, Georgetown, and Miami in the Final Four, and Miami taking it all. It was hard to go against Indiana and Louisville, but no team out there is unbeatable.

What about you? Who do you have winning the championship? Do you have a system? If so, what “rules” do you have when picking a bracket? If you’re a person who fills out more than one set of picks…please explain why in the comments below.

Good luck on your picks!


  1. "Let’s hope I’m wrong about Craft though."

    Michigan guys, boy I tell you, SMH. lol! Just be happy Trey we let Trey Burke sneak out of Columbus.

    Much like yourself I always do the standard "pick one 5 vs. 12 upset" ….happens virtually every year in the tournament like clockwork.

    I try to figure out which 1 seed is playing the least well or has the least momentum and usually look for the 8/9 seed to upset in the 2nd round. Odds are that #1 seed isn't making past the sweet 16 anyway so if I whiff I'm not taking a huge burden points-wise. Very rare all 4 #1 seeds make the Final Four.

    I'm gonna roll with Louisville, Indiana, Michigan and the Zags…..don't love those picks…and honestly I flipped a coin on a few of 'em, lol.

    Your Final Four picks are very bold, sir….I predict all of your teams will be out after the sweet 16, lol (that's for the Aaron Craft jab)

    1. I have so little confidence in my picks this year. I watched more games than I have the past few seasons and ended up more confused. It's ridiculous.

      I put Ohio State in the Elite 8…that's respect, right? Watched them in person on Sunday (#HumbleBrag) and they looked legit. Aaaaaaaaaaaalmost had them losing to Notre Dame though, lol.

  2. I typically do multiple brackets cuz I enter them on different websites. I feel like I’m bettering my odds. Like going to multiple stores and getting a different lottery ticket. Of all the brackets I usually submit, there is always 1 with Michigan winning it all. Due to the lack of luster throughout this upcoming tourney, as far as an all around team, Michigan actually has a legitimate chance. Because of this, I got them going all the way in all my brackets. In the end, 2013 has achieved 1 set bracket from this guy.

    1. Didn't realize you always move Michigan through on one of your brackets. You need multiple! Lol.

      Said with love, bc I'm a Michigan fan too, but they have been terrible tournament teams since…the Fab Five?

      I have them in the Elite 8 though. So I'm riding with you for the most part.

  3. I swear I'm the only brotha in DC who is more a Terps fan than Georgetown. That being said, I'm pulling for the Hoyas to cut the nets down as the last time they will be a member of the original Big East. Plus, how cool would it be that a father and son won 'chips at the same school? After losing a few hundred bills over the years, I don't do the *gambling* brackets anymore, but for the fun of it, I hope to see the MEAC winner in the Sweet 16. Is it likely? No. But it is plausible.
    My recent post Painful Transparency

    1. You are definitely a sentimental bracket picker. Can't fault you, as noted above, I have Michigan in the Elite 8. I think playing in The Palace will help, but I'm NERVOUS about VCU in the second round. Hell, I'm nervous about South Dakota State.

      I have Georgetown in the Final Four almost strictly based on the fact that I'm an Otto Porter fan. Hoping he can help my sorry Pistons next year.


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