Building a bracket is easy. Building a perfect bracket is effectively impossible, so you are not likely to achieve such a lofty goal. With 68 teams, there are 147,573,952,589,676,412,928 possible brackets (if one only considers the 64 teams in the main bracket, excluding the First Four. the number drops to 9,223,372,036,854,775,808). Since not all brackets are equally likely, the odds of creating a perfect bracket are better than these numbers indicate, albeit still quite remote. That being said, even building a good bracket is challenging. It is difficult to imagine teams seeded No. 1, No. 2, or No. 3 losing early in the tournament, yet they do, with great regularity. The challenge is deciding which of (and when) these seeds will lose. However, there are some patterns that have consistently emerged to help you avoid a bad bracket.

In the round of 64, the 5-12 upset gets a great deal of attention. In the 31 tournaments from 1985 through 2015,
the No. 12 seeds had a 44-80 record. In fact, in 13 of the past 31 tournaments, two or three No. 12 seeds advanced
to the round of 32. What gets less attention is the 6-11 upset. In the 31 tournaments from 1985 through 2015,
the No. 11 seeds had a 43-81 record. Moreover, in 13 of the past 31 tournaments, two, three, or all four No. 11 seeds
advanced to the round of 32. Collectively, an average of 4.48 teams seeded No 11 or lower (worse) advanced
to the round of 32. Also, in 23 of the past 31 tournaments, four or more teams seeded No 11 or lower (worse)
advanced to the round of 32. However, an average of 1.68 teams seeded No. 13 or lower (worse) have won
in this round, so picking one or two such upsets is prudent.

How should your upsets be distributed in the round of 64? Eliminating the discussion on the 8-9 matchup, which is essentially a toss-up game (the No. 8 seed owns a 63-61 advantage), 24 out of 124 regions (19%) over the past 31 tournaments has had all of the top seven seeds advance. Moreover, in 38 out of 124 regions (31%) over the past 31 tournaments, exactly 6 of the top seven seeds have advanced, while in 46 out of 124 regions (37%) over the past 31 tournaments, exactly 5 of the top seven seeds have advanced. In only in 7 out of 124 regions (6%) over the past 31 tournaments have exactly 4 of the top seven seeds have advanced, while in
9 out of 124 regions (7%) over the past 31 tournaments, exactly 3 of the top seven seeds have advanced. Therefore, upsets should be spread thinly across the regions, with the possible exception of one region that you may wish to have "blowup."

In the round of 32, teams seeded No. 7 and lower continue to advance. In 27 of the past 31 tournaments,
two or more of these teams have reached the Sweet Sixteen, with an average of 3.48 of these teams reaching
this round. In fact, only once (1995) in the past 31 tournaments has there not been a team seeded
No. 7 or lower reaching the Sweet Sixteen. Moreover, an average of 1.52 teams seeded No. 11 or
lower reached the Sweet Sixteen, and in 27 of the past 31 tournaments, one or more of these teams reached
the Sweet Sixteen. Among highly seeded teams, in 21 of the past 31 tournaments, 8 or fewer teams seeded
No. 1, No. 2 or No. 3 reached the Sweet Sixteen.

The Final Four draws the most attention. The following table gives the probabilities for the number of
No. 1 seeds that reach this round.

P(Zero No. 1) | 0.166 |

P(One No. 1) | 0.376 |

P(Two No. 1) | 0.320 |

P(Three No. 1) | 0.121 |

P(Four No. 1) | 0.017 |

It is almost 10 times more likely for a Final Four to contain zero No. 1 seeds than
it is to contain four No. 1 seeds. Picking one or two No. 1 seeds in the Final Four is prudent.

Some interesting factoids that may help you set your Final Four:

The odds against one or more No. 16 seeds reaching the Final Four is 584 to 1.

The odds against one or more No. 15 or No. 16 seeds reaching the Final Four is 227 to 1.

The odds against one or more No. 14, No. 15, or No. 16 seeds reaching the Final Four is 116 to 1.

The odds against one or more No. 13 through No. 16 seeds reaching the Final Four is 65 to 1.

The odds against one or more No. 12 through No. 16 seeds reaching the Final Four is 39 to 1.

The odds against one or more No. 11 through No. 16 seeds reaching the Final Four is 23 to 1.
This has happened three times over the past 31 tournaments (1986, 2006, 2011).

The odds against one or more No. 10 through No. 16 seeds reaching the Final Four is 14 to 1.

The odds against only teams seeded No. 3 or lower (worse) reaching the Final Four is 36 to 1.
This has happened only once over the past 31 tournaments (2011).

The odds against only teams seeded No. 1, No. 2, or No. 3 reaching the Final Four is 2.32 to 1.
This has happened 11 times over the past 30 tournaments (1989, 1991, 1993, 1994, 1998, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2008, 2009).

The odds against only teams seeded No. 1 or No. 2 reaching the Final Four is 7.06 to 1.
This has happened 3 times over the past 30 tournaments (1993, 2007, 2008).

bracketodds.cs.illinois.edu © 2016 - The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.

All Rights Reserved.