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How to Play a NCAA Tournament Bracket

By James B. Jones

Whether it's with friends, online or at work, one of the most popular fan-based activities in college basketball is picking the NCAA Tournament bracket. Making these picks is not an exact science and it is difficult to take the "human factor" into account, but there are several things you can do to ensure that once a champion is crowned, your bracket rises above the others.

Playing a NCAA Tournament Bracket

Advance your No.1 seeds to the second round. In the history of the tournament, a No. 1 seed has never lost to a No. 16 seed.

Support the perennial favorites. Teams like Duke, North Carolina and Michigan State are often favored for a reason: they win. While they may not always go to the title game, they often progress deep into the tournament and are almost always a lock for the Sweet 16.

Play the numbers. If you are unfamiliar with college basketball and are simply playing a bracket for a tournament at your workplace, do the safe thing and play the ranking. This means that, when in doubt, pick the higher-seeded team. That way you are almost assured that when it comes down to the final four, you'll have at least one team still playing.

Flip a coin on the No. 8/No. 9 game. In the opening round, when the No. 8 and No. 9 seeds play each other, 9 times out of 10 the experts will be divided on which team will win. So will everyone your bracket is up against. These teams are ranked this way for a reason and there really is no sure method to determine the superior team. Flip a coin and hope for the best.

Take "home court" into account. While a team is almost never seeded in a bracket that plays its games on a member team's home court, sometimes they will be played very close to the campus. In 2007, North Carolina, which plays its games in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, was placed in the Eastern Bracket, which played its games in Charlotte, North Carolina. These teams often have an advantage over the opposition and advance deep into the tournament.

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