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Three March Madness Bracket Tips From An "Amateur" Expert.....

Rock Mamola

Producer/Host on WSCR 670AM The Score.

There are certain things in life that we will never claim to be.  While we obey most of the laws of the land, are we law-abiding citizens if we have a little case of lead foot?  Very few men will consider themselves culinary experts because they make one hell of a sloppy joe.    
I will never admit to be an expert on March Madness.  Then again, this time of year....who really is? 
For the first time ever, you will have only one day to fill out your bracket of 68 teams and choose what team will embrace that "One Shining Moment".  With the sure fact that most people who fill out a bracket does not watch a lot of regular season college basketball, we each have our own unique way of picking the games.  Some rely on the national experts since they are the few souls that watch every conference and every team in the NCAA tournament.  Some rely on what our friends and co-workers have picked already.  Others choose the more fun "whose mascot would win in a fight" method.  There simply is no correct way to go about filling out your field of 68, because the odds of a perfect bracket are astounding.  In fact (according to, after the play-in games starting tomorrow (TUES), there are 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 possible brackets. 
While I am not any sort of expert of the college game, here are three tips I always go by when picking my bracket.


The first tip is always go with the easy games before you get into the harder ones.  The first round of the tournament is where you pick all these games.  
For instance the #1 seeds in each region are 104-0 in first round contests, that is pretty good odds if you ask me.  If you fear parody will rule the day this season, keep in mind in the last ten seasons, the #1 seeds win by an average margin of +26.4 points in their first round matchups.  So....take Ohio State, Kansas, Duke, and Pittsburgh to win.    
This tip also goes for the #2 and #3 seeds which are 39-1 and 37-3 respectively in the last ten years in the first round.  If you follow the trend here and go with the favorites/higher seeds, this is an easy 12 games you can pick as winners.  After picking these 12 winners, continue to follow the trend because if you aim to pick "the upset" pick you could really mess up a bracket.  The key is try not to aim for upsets if you do not know anything about the team you think will be the upset special.  Go with the odds and combine what you actually know about a team rather than aim for something which could harm your bracket in the later rounds.  Typically if you pick an upset want to believe in that team where you could have them going much farther than what they will.  
The second tip comes when the tournament hits the sweet sixteen.  Favorites are favorites for a reason, good experienced coaches.  NCAA basketball teams are built not around the quality of the players, but the quality of the head coach.  With the sport of college basketball is a state of decline as far as the experience level of the players involved, more than ever teams will need to rely on their head coach.  Tom Izzo and Michigan State has had an up and down year ending with a #10 seed in the southeast bracket, but with six final four appearances to his resume it will be hard to bet against his Spartans.  Coach K (I cannot spell his last name by memory) at Duke, Roy Williams at North Carolina, Rick Pitino at Louisville.  When you get to the sweet sixteen match ups, always bet on the more experienced head coach over the talent on the floor.  This will help you when trying to rack your brain on the Purdue/Notre Dame or anytime San Diego State in playing past their dates in Tucson, AZ.  Instead of studying box scores and stat sheets from each team, your pick could lie simply in whom is in the expensive suit on the sideline.  
Do not believe in the Big East.  Just because ESPN has a contract with the conference and they spend countless hours breaking down St. John's basketball does not mean that the conference is good when pitted against the rest of the NCAA field.  For instance, a Big East team has not won a national championship since 2004, and have only had four teams (16.7%) in the last six final fours (24 teams).  The Big Ten (5) has actually had more teams represented in that same duration and the ACC (4) has had the same number of teams represented.  Even with a record 11 teams represented from the Big East Conference this year, the number of teams represented does not mean the top of that conference are far and away better than the best of the other conferences.  Use your judgment when choosing winners based on the conference they play in, especially with the Big East.  
By playing the odds, trusting in experienced coaching and not buying into network television propaganda, you will have a more representable tournament bracket.  I am not claiming to be a NCAA basketball expert by any means, even if you are more into picking street fights involving mascots of the two representative teams.  What makes March Madness the most entertaining sporting event of the sports calendar is while you may watch every second of every game this regular season......the new girl down the hall has a better bracket than you.  
The clock is ticking down to the official start of March Madness.  While you may seek the best advice before filling out your bracket, the best advice anyone can give is.....use  a pencil.  
Have fun!  
John "Rock" Mamola is the Associate Producer of The Mully And Hanley Morning Show and Host of The Rock Report on WSCR 670AM The Score  
You can follow The Mully And Hanley Morning Show at 



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gwill said:

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to add...

4. neutral court record
5. if you can't decide, pick #9 over #8
6. decisiveness of last 5 wins
7. pick schools with the "Star"
8. at least one #12 seed past first round
9. three out of four #1's will make elite 8
10. champ will be no lower than a 3 seed

gwill said:

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Need to revise last tip, just for this year...

champ will be no lower than a 4 seed (Tejas, perhaps)

twisby said:

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I think it's inappropriate (and lazy, and bad journalism, and anti-intellectual...) to say that you can't spell Mike Krzyzewski's name "without looking it up." Google search bar will tell you how to spell it. It's actually not an uncommon Polish surname and relies on common Polish constructions of letters. If you're going to write an entire article about something and state in the middle that you're too lazy to look up how to spell a word, you should not be writing anything for the public.

Rock Mamola said:


It's a blog....

guess a little humor is unacceptable......


rangerjae said:

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It is your fault that I have gotten into this. I remember a nice afternoon day in MP getting pizza and beer meeting up with you when I sat down and watched this.

How can you say don't believe in the Big East? This will be the year. I still cant take Ohio State seriously, Duke and NC are tough as usual, but I really think Norte Dame has a good shot to take this.

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