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Everything You Need To Prep For The Men’s and Women’s NCAA Tournaments

Let’s Start With Our Fool-Proof Bracket Strategy

The March Madness logo prior to the game between the West Virginia Mountaineers and the Syracuse Orange in the second round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

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Are you looking to win your work bracket pool or perhaps want to earn bragging rights over your friends, family and co-workers? Regardless of your intentions, there are some simple rules you should follow as you fill out your men’s and women’s NCAA tournament brackets.

1. Don’t pick with your heart: One of the biggest mistakes you can make is simply advancing your alma mater or favorite team to win it all. It is a tremendous trap for many sports fans, who refuse to pick against their school in the tournament.

2. Do not just pick by seed: Seeds are often a solid way to assist your selections—the best teams are the No. 1 seeds while the weakest are No. 16 seeds. The NCAA selection committee spends months ranking all the teams while attempting to reward the No. 1 seeds with increased chances of reaching the Final Four. However, despite the perceived advantage of the “easiest” paths, victories often get derailed by Cinderella runs from sleeper teams.

3. Pay attention to the Futures market: Be sure to look at the Futures market at SI Sportsbook, as it is often the best indication of which teams oddsmakers believe have the best path to a Final Four or national title. However, our advice is to fade the overall chalk. Last year, Gonzaga was the shortest price in Futures for the men’s tournament, but came up short against Baylor. Use the market as a guide, not simply a “must follow.”

4. Upsets bust brackets, but avoid selecting No. 16 seeds: In the 2018 men’s tournament, we witnessed history when No. 1 Virginia was ousted by No. 16 seed UMBC as 20-point underdogs. The Retrievers became the first 16th seed to ever knock out a top seed. The 74-54 upset sent moneyline backers rushing back to the betting windows to cash tickets at odds of +3050. As enticing as this may be for you, do not pick any No. 16 seeds to pull off the upset. The top teams are 143-1 overall in the history of the men’s NCAA tournament.

5. Pay attention to the first-round point spreads: Print the point spreads for each of the opening-round games and place them alongside your brackets. Then, look for misalignment. What does that mean? Many times, the oddsmakers’ power rankings are not in agreement with the committee members who assigned the seeds. For example, a No. 10 seed favored over a No. 7 seed, or a No. 12 only within a few points of a No. 5, is a very telling sign. Use the spread as your guide to finding potential upsets.


Now that you have your bracket strategy prepped, check out SI’s college basketball experts’ region-by-region breakdowns and predictions for another edge.

Men’s tournament

• West Region: Fueled by last year’s championship loss, Gonzaga will be anxious to return to the Final Four. But can Duke or Texas Tech spoil it for the No. 1 overall seed? Pat Forde explains why it’s Chet Holmgren and the Zags’ region to lose.

• East Region: With LJ Cryer’s return still questionable, Baylor faces a tough task in a loaded region that features UCLA and a Kentucky team led by Oscar Tshiebwe. Kevin Sweeney previews the most stacked region of the tournament.

• South Region: Many believed Tennessee deserved a No. 2 seed after winning the SEC title. But Jason Jordan adds that Loyola Chicago is also lurking and can stir up some March magic. Paging Sister Jean!

• Midwest Region: Kansas is brimming with confidence after its conference title, but will a region full of talent rattle the Jayhawks? There’s one team that could challenge KU, according to Jeremy Woo.

Women’s tournament

• Regional previews and predictions: With South Carolina, Stanford, N.C. State and Louisville as the top seeds in a tournament that will feature 68 teams for the first time, there are even more great possibilities to digest in the women’s bracket. Ben Pickman weighs in on the players, games and bracket busters to watch.

• Sleeper team to watch: After losing Kierstan Bell earlier this season, Florida Gulf Coast roster stepped up to keep their tournament hopes alive. Now, with the star guard back in the lineup and a first-round matchup against Virginia Tech, the Eagles are primed for a deep tournament run, writes Wilton Jackson.

Experts’ predictions

• Men’s tourney: Gonzaga or bust? Pat Forde leads our group of college hoops gurus, who make their picks for this year’s dance.

• Women’s tourney: Will Aliyah Boston and South Carolina break through to win it all? Check out Pickman’s predictions.

Busting Brackets

Not just yet, but here are printable brackets and the complete field for both tournaments:

• Complete men’s bracket: A look at the road to New Orleans.

• Complete women’s bracket: Which teams will make the trip to Minneapolis?

• And for those of you whose teams didn’t make the March Madness dance (are they on this list?), here is a look at the 2022 NIT tournament bracket.