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Bracket racket: Want to dominate your March Madness office pool? These tips can help

By Joedy McCreary,


(Editor’s note: CBS 17 Digital Reporter Joedy McCreary covered the men’s and women’s NCAA Tournaments as a sports writer for The Associated Press every year from 2007-19.)

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — There are more than 9.2 quintillion different ways you can fill out an NCAA Tournament bracket.

Which one should you go with?

Maybe I can help.

Here are a few hints and trends you should keep in mind as you try to dominate your office pool, win a nationwide contest or simply win bragging rights by outsmarting your family members.


That means picking your national champion first, then working backward a bit and settling on your Final Four before diving too deep into the weeds of the first round.

Otherwise, it’s easy to paint yourself into a corner with individual matchups. And picking the right overall winner is probably worth more points in your pool than choosing a first-round winner.

That eventual champion will probably be a No. 1, No. 2 or No. 3 seed in its region. Each of the past five tournament champs was a No. 1 seed, and a 1 or a 2 has won it every year it was held since 2014 (Connecticut).

Before that, you have to go back to 1997 (Arizona) to find a champion outside the top three seeds.

But don’t pick ALL No. 1 seeds in your Final Four. That has only happened once since 1985.

These North Carolina college basketball teams made the NCAA Tournament


It’s one of the most predictable trends every year — a 12 seed knocks off a No. 5.

And that could mean trouble for one of our local schools.

Look at the past 36 tournaments. In 31 of them, at least one No. 12 seed has taken down a No. 5.

Last year, New Mexico State and Richmond pulled it off by taking down Connecticut and Iowa, respectively.

Your No. 12 seeds this year are the College of Charleston, Drake, Virginia Commonwealth and Oral Roberts … which not only pulled off an even bigger upset two years ago (more on that later) but is a darling according to the analytics.

The Golden Eagles finished at No. 36 in the NCAA’s NET rankings — which factor in a team’s strength of schedule and its margin of victory, among other criteria. That’s one spot behind one of the No. 5 seeds — Miami.

Oral Roberts plays Duke on Thursday night in the first round of the East in Orlando, Florida.


No. 13 seeds knock off No. 4 seeds a little over 20 percent of the time — but five of them have happened since 2018.

That includes two in 2021, with North Texas beating Purdue and Ohio beating Virginia.

A 13-4 upset is significantly more common than a 14 beating a 3 — which has only happened once since 2016 and just 22 times since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985.

Your No. 13s to watch: Kent State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Furman … and Iona, coached by Hall of Famer and two-time national champ Rick Pitino.

What you need to know about the NCAA Tournament games in Greensboro


You probably remember tiny Saint Peters upsetting its way to the Elite Eight last year, the deepest run a No. 15 seed has ever made.

It probably won’t happen again, even though a No. 15 has bumped off a No. 2 seed in each of the last two years. Oral Roberts — remember them? — pulled one of those stunners against Ohio State in 2021.

But it’s only happened eight other times since 1985.

And you might want to lay off of Northern Kentucky, Howard and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi as 16 seeds. The only 16 to beat a No. 1 took place five years ago when UMBC shocked Virginia.


You’ll want to pick a couple of teams seeded 10th or worse to make it to the Sweet 16.

But for most of the ones that get that far, that’s where the road ends.

A total of 21 double-digit seeds have reached the Elite Eight, including two last year (Saint Peters and Miami).

Both of them lost there, and only six double-digit seeds have made it to a Final Four. The two most recent: Loyola of Chicago in 2018 and UCLA in 2021, both as 11 seeds. Only one No. 10 seed — Syracuse in 2016 — has ever reached the Final Four.

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