The 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament bracket was unveiled on Sunday night. So you're probably furiously filling it out, hoping you're picking the best favorites and selecting the right Cinderellas. (What's that? You don't have a bracket yet? Well, don't waste another minute — download one now!)
If you're looking for a method to March Madness, we have some strategies for becoming an ace bracketologist. Apply them at your own risk.
Before we get to some of our more, um, interesting methods for making picks, let's take a look at some cold, hard numbers. Each team in the four regions is seeded from 1 to 16. That's a good guide for telling which team is better. But that doesn't mean you should assume that a higher-seeded squad is going to win. Consider these facts about how certain seeds have performed.
1 A top seed has claimed 19 of the past 30 national championships. (North Carolina has won the title as a top seed four times, including in 1982 with Michael Jordan, left.) But don't go crazy picking No. 1s. Since seeding began in 1979, only once has every Final Four team been a No. 1 seed.
2 Since 1985, No. 2 seeds have lost nearly 1/3 of their second-round games (39 of 109).
16 Don’t even think about it. A sixteen seed has never beaten a No. 1 seed.
ELITE EIGHT If you pick an underdog, don't be afraid to back it for more than a single big win. At least one team seeded sixth or lower has reached the Elite Eight in 25 of the past 30 years.
5 VERSUS 12 Number 12 seeds have won at least two games in 13 of the past 15 years. (They had no wins in 2000 or '07). Going further, No. 12 seeds have reached the Sweet 16 20 times — more than eight and nine seeds combined (15). But they rarely move past that round: They have a 1--20 record in the Sweet 16.
4 VERSUS 13 A No. 13 seed has upset a No. 4 in six of the last seven tournaments.
The Badgers are pitted against the Colonels. The Blue Devils are facing the Hawks. And the Mountaineers are battling the Tamaskans. (Don't worry, we didn't know what a tamaskan was either. It's a dog, and it's the mascot for the North Carolina State Wolfpack.) All of these scenarios may be possible when the brackets come out on Selection Sunday. Which mascot is more likely to get the W?
To find out, we looked at how mascots fared in the past three tournaments. We grouped them into five categories: birds; people; canines and felines; other beasts; and fantasy figures/weather patterns/inanimate objects.
And the winner was ... birds! (Cardinals were the best of the bunch, with a 16--6 record.) People, meanwhile, came in last. Pistol Pete — who pumps up the crowds at Oklahoma State and New Mexico State — was especially dismal, going 0--6. Here are the complete results:
Why not make a fashion statement and pick your teams by their uniform color? We looked back at the brackets from the past three years to see which color has the best shot at a title. If a school had two equally prominent colors in their duds (for example, Virginia wears orange and blue), we chose the color closer to the beginning of the color spectrum. (Remember Roy G. Biv? Red-Orange-Yellow-Green-Blue-Indigo-Violet.) Then we discounted games that featured two teams with the same color.
It's Thursday, March 19, at 11:55 a.m., and tipoff for the round of 64 is in 20 minutes. You've been so busy with homework and chores that you forgot to fill out your bracket. How are you going to get it done before the tourney tips off? We started thinking about some of the fastest ways to make selections: always picking favorites, going for all upsets, alphabetically (by first letter of the school), and by selecting the team on the top line in every matchup. Then, we looked back at the 2014 results. Here's how the winning percentages played out:
1. Favorites: 53.9%
2. Top line: 49.2%
3. Alphabetical: 34.9%
4. Upsets: 12.6%
Photos: YAGI STUDIO/GETTY IMAGES (HAND), JERRY WACHTER FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (JORDAN), LOUIS LOPEZ/CAL SPORT MEDIA (CARDINAL), BILL FRAKES/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (RED), AL TIELEMANS/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (ORANGE), JUSTIN K. ALLER/GETTY IMAGES (YELLOW), CHARLIE NEIBERGALL/AP (GREEN), GREG NELSON FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (BLUE), PETER AIKEN/GETTY IMAGES (PURPLE), DEREK COLE/GETTY IMAGES (CLOCK)