The Inexact Science of Predicting this Year’s NCAA Tournament Champion

So, you’re looking for the perfect NCAA tournament bracket. The perfect bracket is such a rarity that contests offering millions of dollars have sprouted up over the years enticing entries and further building up the excitement surrounding March Madness. Picking the bracket, perfect or maybe almost perfect, is nothing but an inexact science. Here’s how you can put together a solid NCAA tournament bracket for 2017.


Okay. Upsets are going to happen. The problem for you is selecting where and when. Only eight No. 15 seeds have won games in the tourney. Middle Tennessee State did it just last year when the Blue Raiders upset Michigan State. The occurrence is such a rarity that one should avoid the trap of picking a No. 2 seed.

In the past four tournaments a No. 14 seed has won at least one game. Stephen F. Austin did it last year beating West Virginia, 70-56. This year, Iona might have a shot at upsetting Oregon, which lost Chris Boucher to a knee injury. Or, maybe it’s the revival of ‘Dunk City,’ Florida Gulf Coast, which plays Florida State in Round 1.

One of the surest bets in the tournament is on a No. 12 seed winning a game. Since 1985, 46 No. 12 seeds have won a tournament game. That is nearly 36 percent success in the first round. This year’s choices are UNC-Wilmington, Nevada, Princeton, and Middle Tennessee State. Maybe the Blue Raiders can pull an upset for the second straight year.



If you miss an upset or two, it’s no big deal. In most brackets, you receive more points the closer you get to the Final Four. That’s where your bracket really counts. So, make sure you choose a Final Four that is realistic. What does that mean, you ask? Well, most teams that reach the Final Four are No. 1, No. 2, or No. 3 seeds. Yes, there is the occasional No. 7 Connecticut in 2012, but those are rare.

Feel like picking all No. 1 seeds? Don’t. Since seeding began in 1979, there has been only one Final Four with all four top seeds. Gonna leave out all the No. 1s? Don’t do that either. Since 1979, there has been at least one No. 1 seed in each Final Four but three – 1980, 2006, 2011.

Now, to pick this year’s Final Four and the eventual national champion, it might be helpful to know that each of the last three champs entered the tournament as at-large selections. Knowing this, picking Kansas in the Midwest and Villanova in the East gives us two No. 1 seeds and one at-large team (the Jayhawks). The science really heats up when we factor in that 12 of the last 13 national champions have worn the color blue. Both Kansas and Villanova wear blue. Arizona, a No. 2 seed, also wears blue as does UCLA, a No. 3 in the South.

So, now we have a Final Four comprised of two No. 1s, a No. 2, and a No. 3. Perfect, according to history. All teams wear blue too. So who wins? Well, we can tell you who definitely will not win. Since 1998, every national championship team has had a head coach with an ‘I’ in his name. Sticking to science, UCLA’s Steve Alford eliminates the Bruins. History also says that the likelihood of a team repeating is slim, so you might eliminate Villanova. That leaves Kansas and Arizona. The 2017 national champion? Flip a coin, it works half the time.