Updated on 08.01.14

The Simple Dollar Weekly Roundup: Bracketology Edition

Trent Hamm

A lot of people out there are busily filling out NCAA tournament brackets for their (friendly) office pools. I’m pretty obsessive about college basketball and thus I have my own secret industrial-strength methodology for my own bracket, but I usually offer some good advice to anyone who doesn’t know the first thing about the NCAA tournament and is trying to fill out a bracket to fit in. Here’s the game plan:

For the first two rounds, pick the higher seed every time. This will leave you with a Sweet Sixteen of nothing but 1, 2, 3, and 4 seeds.

For the rest of the tournament, pick the team with the most wins, regardless of seed.

For this year’s tournament, that would give you a title game of North Carolina versus Memphis, with Memphis winning it all.

While this probably won’t give you the winning bracket, it will give you a bracket that will do respectably well in any competition.

Another option, if you want to really research things, is to go through the bracket and write down how many of the team’s last fifteen games they won. You can get that easily at ESPN.com or another sports site. Then, pick your winner of every game based on that number, with the team with more wins in the last fifteen always coming out on top. If they have the same number, pick them based on overall wins. In fact, this is actually not too far off my own personal strategy.

Good luck! Here are some interesting articles worth reading!

How to Recover From a (Big) Mistake at Work Excellent career advice. Every one of us will eventually make some sort of large mistake in the workplace. (@ dumb little man)

Excited and Scared: One Week as a Full Time Blogger J.D. and I made the leap to writing full time at almost exactly the same moment. Here are his reflections after week one of doing this full time. (@ get rich slowly)

How to Motivate Yourself Without Hard Deadlines My technique is to create artificial hard deadlines for myself and enforce them strictly. (@ pick the brain)

90% Off Is Not A Deal If You Don’t Need It Quite often, a reader will send me a note about some unbelievably great deal that they found on some tchotchke online somewhere, and then get offended when I don’t post about it. Here’s the scoop: it’s still stuff you don’t need to be spending your money on, even if it’s stuff with a big discount. (@ wise bread)

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  1. Kacie says:

    Eh, I try to be less scientific about it. Anything can happen in the big dance.

    Let’s hope my #8 seed Hoosiers do well (not so likely…but, we’ll see!).

    People who pick teams based on their mascot, color, or sound of their name seem to do just as well as the people who have been following college hoops all season.

  2. Saving Freak says:

    I love March Madness. My strategy has always been to look at the strength of the conferences. Pick the teams in the conference that was the most competitive this season. Don’t get too happy with those teams if you have a 9 seed versus a 1 that is not a good time to pick the 9.

  3. Indiana can’t get past NC. I’m an ACC guy, and hate Carolina and Duke. Be that as it may, Carolina will win it all this year.

    I’m almost done with my bracket, I’ve got Carolina, Memphis, and Xavier. I’m still deciding about the Midwest bracket. Portland State?

  4. Ben Dinsmore says:


    COngratulations to you and JD on your first full week as full time writers.

    Also, 90% certainly isn’t a deal if you don’t need something. My wife and I have struggled in the past with all of the “great deals” we each would fine when we would use up all of our discretionary income (and then a whole lot more) on junk that did nothing more than just clutter up our lives.

  5. Michael says:

    90% off is a good price if its market value is higher after selling expenses, and the buyer wants to spend time to sell it.

  6. paidtwice says:

    Thanks for including my snowflaking post in your roundup! :) It was a hard-fought battle in the PF March Madness bracket indeed and I couldn’t have asked for a more worthy opponent. :)

    Good luck with your NCAA bracket – I am an emotional chooser and always have my alma mater go farther than my brain knows they should. At least they’ve won a few tournaments so I can tell myself it isn’t the stupidest of picks. :)

  7. Frugal Dad says:

    I haven’t kept up with NCAA b-ball much this year, but I like your selection methodology and may borrow it for our office pool. Now if NCAA football would ever go to this method of post-season play I would be dangerous!

  8. James says:

    I used this strategy last year and won two pools. My brother was furious that it worked because never once in NCAA history have all the top seeded teams made it to the second round.

  9. Tony Katz says:

    I’m so glad I don’t work in an office anymore where these knuckleheads are running around filling out brackets. If it isn’t March Madness, it’s the football pool, or the fantasy baseball league, etc.

  10. Phil A says:

    Good sound strategy Trent. I incorporate one similar to it.

  11. Jesse says:

    One extra addition I would make: similar records, pick the “home” team.

  12. Bill says:

    Two words: Jeff Sagarin. Look it up. He provides to USA Today ratings based on strength of schedule, record, and other statistics that generally represent a very good ranking of the teams, even those that haven’t played one another.

    I used his data in Vegas a few years ago, where I picked (i.e., WON) 9 out of 10 bets during the first two rounds. Admittedly, I was able to ‘arbitrage’ a bit, in that I didn’t have to pick every game, but only those where the ‘line’ was very disparate from the difference in ratings between the two matched up opponents.

    This is my first try at using his system on the entire bracket. I’ve made my picks and you can check them out if you want. Email me and I’ll show you where you can find my bracket.

    Bottom line, though: Basketball, like any other sport, is very unpredictable, when taken one game at a time. So, there will be ‘upsets’ made by teams that had no business beating the favored team, if given a series of games. But since it’s ‘one and done’ lots of things can happen.

    Odds are, though, the favored teams will win the majority of the games.

  13. No Debt Plan says:

    Gotta love bracket time. Go Vols!

    You’ve got to pick an upset somewhere, the only problem is figuring out where.

  14. Bonnie says:

    I love the idea of Memphis “taking it all”. The U of M is my alma mater! Go Tigers!

  15. jj says:

    stupid advice to pick all the top seeds in the first two rounds. thts the chick method of choosing brackets. do some research and pick your teams. why bother even doing brackets if youre just gonna go by the selection committees opinions. dumb advice.

  16. Jim says:

    Go Memphis!

  17. Historically, in 10 vs. 7 matchups, the 10th seed has a slightly better than 50% chance of winning (or at least this was the case a few years back — I haven’t seen more recent data). That’s the only matchup where the underdog actually does better. So statistically, it would be better to choose high seeds in every game except the 10 vs. 7 matchup in the early rounds. Of course, these things vary wildly from year-to-year, past performance is not a predict of future results, and all that jazz.

  18. Larry says:

    The Year of The Tiger!

    Go Memphis!!!!

  19. chris says:

    Too bad I wa sout of town and didn’t get to post this earlier, but always, always pick one 12 over a 5. Generally go for a 12 who is a team you’ve heard of, or against a 5 you’ve never heard of.

    this year it was drake as a 5 seed and #12 western kentucky beat them.

    Also any double digit seed with a nba lottery pick (which unfortunately was kansas st vs my USC this year :()

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