BRACKET TIP SHEET: Your guide to the NCAA tournament

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

The NCAA tournament field of 68 has been picked and the madness is officially underway.

From picking teams based on mascots or their color schemes to the guy actively reading USA TODAY Sports’ college basketball coverage, everybody has their own way of filling out their tournament brackets.

But if you really want to beat Gary in accounting or Lisa in marketing, or you just don’t want to come in last place of your friend’s pool, here are some friendly tips to help you win your bracket pool.

Don’t let Cinderella stay out too late: Only four double-digit seeds have made the Final Four, one of them being Syracuse last year. While your pool might have more points awarded for upsets, be wary of how long you let Cinderella dance.

Early bird gets the worm: Since the NCAA went to the eight-team play-in game format in 2011, a qualifier has gone on to win at least one more game and in three of the six years, a team has made it to the Sweet 16.

Understand your bracket scoring: Are upsets weighted more? Do correct picks multiply each round you’re right? Know the scoring system so you can avoid hate-picking your alma mater’s rival to lose too early.

Raining threes: Since 1987, only six teams have shot less than 35% on three-pointers and won the title. Villanova shot 37.1% last season.

Win, baby, win: Since 1992, nine of the teams to win the national championship also were regular-season and conference tournament champions. This year’s regular-season and conference tournament champions: Villanova, Gonzaga, MTSU, New Orleans, Nevada, Texas Southern, North Dakota, NC Central, Vermont, Bucknell, South Dakota State, Mount St. Mary’s, UNC Wilmington, Wichita State, FGCU and Winthrop.

Will this be the year a No. 16 seed upsets a No. 1 seed?: No. Moving on.

Taking charity: Since 1985, when the tournament went to 64 teams, only eight winners have shot less than 70% at the free throw line and only one team has shot better than 78%. Villanova was 79.4% from the charity stripe last season.

USA Today Sports


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