I was in the library last night when Tufts announced that classes will be moved online after spring break due to the global coronavirus pandemic. The library quickly went from a quiet study space to a hive of activity with kids making calls, embracing their friends and shedding tears. When I saw the email, I only had one thought: Please don’t let this affect March Madness.
Assuming the Div. I NCAA basketball tournament takes place, the next few weeks will be filled with some of the best and most exciting games of the year. This column is dedicated to preparing you for the game within the game: the bracket pool. Bracketology is an extremely complicated science studied by thousands of Americans each year. Since Tufts currently doesn’t offer a class in bracketology to fulfill the science requirement, I’m here to give you some tips to help you win your pool and maximize the March Madness experience.
- Only fill out one bracket. Everyone knows the guy who walks around telling everybody about how he “called” the big first round upset. What he really means is that he picked the No. 14 seed to win in two of his 28 brackets. Very impressive, right? No. Don’t be that guy. Fill out one bracket and ride it to glory or to the dumpster fire.
- Upperclassmen point guards win championships. Last year, University of Virginia rode junior guards Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome to the championship. In 2018, junior guard Jalen Brunson starred in Villanova University’s championship run, and in 2017, junior guard Joel Berry ran the point for University of North Carolina’s championship squad. The team you pick to go all the way should have guards with experience handling the ball when everything is on the line.
- Pick teams that can hit free throws in crunch time. With so many tight games in the tournament, the ability to hit free throws can literally be the difference between victory and defeat. In evaluating a team’s free throw ability, it’s important not only to look at overall team free throw percentage, but also to check how teams perform from the line at the end of close games. Nothing can simulate the pressure of the tournament, but if a team shoots a high percentage and has been successful from the line at the end of close games, it’s a good sign.
- Watch conference tournaments. All of them. Split screen if you need to. I’ve been filling out a bracket since I was seven years old, and last year I made the best pick of my life. I correctly took five seed Auburn to the final four because I watched them crush a very good Tennessee team 84–64 in the South Eastern Conference championship game. Conference tournaments shouldn’t be the only factor in your decision making, but they are a good indicator of how well a team is playing going into the NCAA tournament.
Good luck Tufts bracketologists. There’s nothing better than college basketball in March. Let’s go.