Commentary

How to pick the all-important toss-up games in your bracket

Originally Published: March 4, 2008
By Peter Tiernan | Special to ESPN Insider
When you sit down to fill out your bracket after Selection Sunday, you'll need to predict the outcome of three types of games -- pushovers, mismatches and toss-ups.

Pushovers are the easy games to pick. They're the 1 vs. 16 and 2 vs. 15 matchups in the first round that are no-brainers to predict. They effectively give everyone an 8-0 gift to kick-start their brackets. The high seeds are a near-perfect 180-4 in these matchups for a 98 percent success rate. Too bad only about one in eight tourney games of the 23-year 64/65-team era (184 of 1449) is this easy to predict.

The second and biggest class of games -- the mismatches -- comprise 54 percent of tourney contests since 1985 (783 of 1449). In these matchups, which pit teams with a seed difference of four or more positions, the higher seed prevails against the longshot 75.6 percent (592 of 783) of the time. That's a decent success rate, and you wouldn't wind up with an embarrassing bracket if you slotted the high seed to win every mismatch. Odds are, though, you wouldn't win your pool. That's why we'll give you some telltale signs of Cinderellas in an upcoming article. The ability to identify the right upsets is a big part of building a better bracket. Just ask all those lucky souls who picked George Mason in 2006. Of course, last year, having an affinity for Cinderellas would've broken your bracket, because favored seeds dominated, 28-3.

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