March Madness Bracket Tips

Tips and tricks to avoid those heartbreaking bracket busters


Ava Petrilli

Players that will be featured in this year’s tournament.

March Madness. It’s finally back. One of the most exciting things about this tournament is not even the games themselves (although those are very fun to watch) – it’s filling out your bracket. 

You can compete against your friends, family, coworkers, and the rest of the world to see how many games you can pick correctly before the tournament begins. While I’m not covering all the games, I’ve highlighted some tough matchups that you may be debating as you rush to fill out those last minute brackets. Here are some tips to destroy your competition, or at the very least, bragging rights in your friend group. 

Wisconsin (3) vs. Colgate (14): 

To start, it is very rare that a one seed, two seed, or three seed ever loses in the first round. You can almost always pick these teams as their opponents are usually much weaker than they are. With that being said, the one program that could give a top seed a run for their money is Colgate. The Raiders play at an up-tempo pace, and are a very good offensive team – the perfect recipe for success in March Madness. Nevertheless, even while Colgate holds the best chance to win as a 14 seed, I’m firm in my opinion that no one can best a top one, two, or three seeded team. Expect Wisconsin, and their star, Johnny Davis, to best Colgate and make it to the round of 32. 

In the 4-7 matchups, some lower seeds are bound to win in the first round. This is where March Madness gets its name. Some huge matchups for the fourth seeded teams include Arkansas (4) vs. Vermont (13) and Providence (4) vs. South Dakota State (13). In my eyes, these are the two most likely 13 seed over four seed upset wins. 

Arkansas (4) vs. Vermont (13): 

Arkansas is another fast paced team that shoots a lot of threes. The only problem is they don’t make a lot of the threes they shoot. Their defense is decent, but it’s certainly nothing special. If they want to win this game, they will need to rely on their star guard JD Notae. On the other hand, Vermont is a more slow paced team. They can control the tempo of the game and make shots efficiently. Their defense is exceptional as they only allow 60.3 points per game to opposing offenses. I think Vermont’s control over the pace of the game and their shot making abilities will ultimately set them up for a first round upset. 

Providence (4) vs. South Dakota State (13): 

Next up is fourth-seeded Providence vs. thirteenth-seeded South Dakota State. This will be a sneaky good matchup. Providence is good defensively and has proven success in the past as they won the Big East in the regular season, but when it comes to big games they have a tendency to struggle. South Dakota State is just too hot to handle right now and there is no way the Friars are going to snap their 21-game winning streak. SDSU is second in offensive points per game and three point percentage in the entire country, while their defense is also very solid. Look for this to be the easiest underdog win of the first round. 

Houston (5) vs. University of Alabama at Birmingham (12):

If there is one thing that is pretty consistent in this madness, it’s that a 12 seed almost always wins against a 5 seed, and if there’s one game where this is almost guaranteed to happen, it’s the Houston vs. UAB matchup. Houston has some terrific attributes – they’re an outstanding defensive team and efficient from the field, but they’re also easily one of the worst free throw shooting teams in the country. Let’s also not forget that UAB is well above average on both offense and defense. They are one of the top teams in forcing turnovers, but they don’t turn it over themselves. With extra possessions, star player Jordan Walker, and this team’s ability to put the biscuit in the basket, there’s no way the UAB Blazers won’t come out on top. 

Alabama (6) vs. Notre Dame/Rutgers (11):

While the Notre Dame vs. Rutgers play-in game has not been decided yet to earn the 11 seed, I can confidently say I will be picking either of those teams to beat sixth seeded Alabama in the first round. There are a lot of problems with Alabama. While they may play fast, their defense is terrible and their field goal percentage is well-below average. I see the Crimson Tide shooting themselves out of the game and handing out a win to whoever matches up with them in the first round. 

Texas (6) vs. Virginia Tech (11):

Another game that’s bound to be an underdog win is Texas (6) vs. Virginia Tech (11). These are two very defensive teams, but the one differentiating factor in this game is momentum. Virginia Tech is burning hot after winning the entire ACC tournament. They are full of confidence which has led to streaky shooting. This will be Virginia Tech’s game to win. 

Michigan State (7) vs. Davidson (10):

Seventh seeded Michigan State is a household name in the college basketball world. Head Coach Tom Izzo has had a lot of success in the past with his teams in March Madness. Nevertheless, the past is different from the present. The Spartans lie somewhat in the middle of the pack in both offensive and defensive efficiency. Davidson, who will be playing Michigan State in the first round, is a very talented 10 seed. Davidson’s versatility on offense makes them tough to defend, especially because they shoot over 38% from three point range. My pick is for the Davidson Wildcats to knock off the Michigan State Spartans. 

Ohio State (7) vs. Loyola Chicago (10):

Loyola Chicago. The ultimate underdog. Ever since their wild Final Four run in 2018, this program has exceeded expectations. They are always one of the March Madness cinderellas led by good defense and three point shooting. With 102 year-old Sister Jean by their side, it’s just foolish to bet against Loyola Chicago…especially as they take on a seventh-seeded Ohio State squad. 

(8) vs. (9) Seed Picks

These 8-9 matchups are nearly impossible to correctly predict. For these selections, you might as well flip a coin to pick a team. My personal selections for these games are Memphis, TCU, San Diego State, and North Carolina. Take this as you may, but ultimately these teams are always so similar, it’s practically impossible to differentiate them.

Final Four/Championship Picks:

Now you’re probably wondering what to do about the rest of your bracket. Don’t worry, I got you covered: 

A one seeded team almost always loses before the Elite 8. At least one top seed always makes the Final Four. The one seed I am most confident about to reach the final four is Gonzaga. On paper they’re the best team in the country — plain and simple. There is usually one double-digit seed that is able to defy the metrics and win two straight games to advance to the Sweet 16. This year, my pick is for Virginia Tech to be that team continuing their hot streak of wins in March. Most times, there is a five through eight seed that will make the Elite 8. My favorite in this category is Iowa who is an excellent three point-shooting team led by star player Keegan Murray. 

There is a lot of unpredictability within the tournament, but ultimately, my selections for this year’s Final Four feature Gonzaga, Illinois, Kentucky, and Iowa. And for the national champion, the Gonzaga Bulldogs are just craving redemption from last year’s championship loss to Baylor. Expect to see them in April cutting down the nets and hoisting up the championship trophy. 

Now I can’t tell you that my bracket tips will get you a perfect bracket – that would be impossible to do, but hopefully, I’ve given you enough tricks and tips to at least beat out whoever you’re competing against within your pool. 

But hey, who knows? Maybe someone will get a perfect bracket this year. The odds are massively low, but after all, it is March.