Fresh Takes

Enter The Madness


Breaking down some of the unique statistical angles of the 2017 NCAA Tournament to help you construct the perfect bracket

04 APR 1983: North Carolina State coach Jim Valvano cuts the net after North Carolina State defeated Houston 54-52 to win the NCAA Men's National Basketball Final Four title. (Photo by Rich Clarkson/NCAA Photos)

With selection Sunday complete, the NCAA Tournament starts this Thursday with 64 teams playing in a sudden death format stretched over three weeks.

The National Championship final will be played in Phoenix on April 3rd at 9pm.

63 teams will leave disappointed.

Time to batten down the hatches as we steer our ship of trends and predictions right into the heart of the storm that is March Madness…



Syracuse celebrates after winning the NCAA Championship in 2003. (Dennis Nett |


An age old tradition around this time of the year is to fill out a March Madness bracket which awards points for each correct selection from the field of 64.

Essentially, you would be looking to score 192 out of a possible 192 points.

Warren Buffet recently offered a prize of $1 Billion for a perfect bracket, and it really got the juices flowing until you actually completed the math.

Let DePaul University Mathematics Professor Jeff Bergen break this one down for the kids at home…



A 1 in 9,223,372,036,854,777,808 chance of filling out a bracket without any errors is tough sledding no matter how much College basketball you watch.

If it’s easier to say, that’s one in 9.2 quintillion.

So you’re saying there’s a chance?

There’s always a chance…

Let’s explore all the slightly subtle history of past results to help you improve your odds, gain some valuable knowledge by putting you in a better position to win your March Madness pool, potentially win a couple of bets, and possibly destroy the matrix by selecting the perfect bracket.




With teams seeded 1-16 in each of the East, West, Midwest & South… You’re presented with 4 teams that have been granted a number one ranking.

Let’s start there.

The 2017 Tournament’s top seeds are Gonzaga, North Carolina, Villanova and Kansas.

Why not just put all of them in my Final Four selection? 

Well, for starters, we have close to 40 years of track results to study from (dating back to 1979, when they first started the seeding process) that warn you from attempting to take this strategy.

The only year on record when all four #1’s met was 2008.




In fact, the more you drink in the above chart, the more you can lean towards removing certain seeds by a process of elimination.

  • The highest seed to ever win was Villanova (8) in 1985.
  • The highest seed to ever make the final was UCLA (8) in 1980, Butler (8) in 2011, and Kentucky (8) in 2014.
  • The highest seed to ever reach the Final Four was George Mason (11) in 2006, and VCU (11) in 2011.

You can do whatever you want with your bracket, but if you want to tilt the odds your way when selecting the most important picks as far as value goes in a March Madness pool, you can almost rest assured of these following statistical patterns…

1) A team seeded 12-16 has never made a Final Four appearance

2) A team seeded 9-16 has never made an appearance in the National Championship game

3) A team seeded 9-16 has never won the Tournament 

Another tidbit that’s worth sharing stems from the success of #1 seeds in the first round…

No #1 seed has ever lost to a #16 seed in the history of the tournament.

128-0 straight-up all time.

Now I’m not a Gordon Gekko clone calling you using a blocked number from an undisclosed suburb of Long Island to promise you 8-20% on your money, but spinning a 4-team Money Line parlay on the heavy chalk in the opening round of the NCAA tournament may be the safest wager you place all year if you want to guarantee pennies on the dollar.




Taking a deeper dive down the first-round betting trends, here is another couple of key nuggets that you may find helpful when making early selections and/or wagers…

A 15-seed has beaten a 2-seed four times since 2012 (4-16), after going (4-104) in the previous 108.

A 12-seed has defeated a 5-seed outright in 18 of the past 21 seasons.

For more on first-round betting trends you can vanish down this digital rabbit hole.

And if you really want to go hard in the paint for your Tournament research, I highly suggest you check out this work from the University of Illinois.




Another piece of advice I can give you to help your March Madness selections is to check out the Strength of Schedule link for all 351 college teams.

Not all records and rankings are what they seem, some teams have played tougher opponents during the season and some have impressive “Out Of Conference” records, which bodes well in the tournament when potentially facing the unknown.

Before I reveal my Final Four picks, I thought I would remind you to check closely where the tournament games are being held and where they potentially will be played for teams as they advance. Sometimes those sneaky pseudo-home venues can be a game changer in close contests.

Here’s how I’m drawing it up for the Big Dance in 2017…

Elite Eight 

Villanova, Duke, Gonzaga, Arizona, Kansas, Louisville, North Carolina, Kentucky

Final Four 

Villanova, Arizona, Louisville, Kentucky

National Championship

Villanova & Louisville

National Champion 



March Madness 4


March Madness 5


March Madness 3



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Follow Author: @Phil_Jones2020










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