I used to fill out my brackets first thing after the Selection Show on Sunday night so that my betting brain wouldn’t be contaminated with outside noise throughout the week leading up to the first full days of the tourney on Thursday and Friday. Most websites that host tourney pools, however, allow you to tinker with your bracket right up until 12 p.m. Eastern on Thursday. Most of the time it’s too tempting not to switch some things around.
The best way to go about this now, IMO, is to go with your gut early in the week and then make minor tweaks right before the tournament starts. Don’t switch your tournament winner. But don’t let pride get in the way or picking an 11 seed to upset a 6 or a 10 to upset a 7.
For instance, there are some things that can be learned in the First Four games. The 16 seed vs. 16 seed games don’t matter much, but those 11 vs. 11 seed games most certainly do.
Two No. 11 seeds upset two No. 6 seeds last year, and 11 seeds actually have a winning record over 6 seeds over the past six years at 13-11. Part of the reason for this is the fact that a lot of those 11 seeds had tune-ups in the First Four to get their tournament sea legs under them.
These 11 seeds can go deep into the tourney too, as four No. 11 seeds have made the Final Four: Loyola-Chicago last year, VCU in 2011, George Mason in 2006 and LSU in 1986.
Loyola-Chicago did not have to play in a play-in game last season, but Syracuse did – beating Arizona State on the Wednesday before the “real tournament” started. Jim Boeheim’s Orange used that momentum to beat No. 6 VCU in the first round and then upset No. 3 Michigan State in the second round to advance to the Sweet 16.
In 2017, 11 was the magic number as well as USC dumped Providence in the East Region play-in game before upsetting No. 6 SMU in the first round. While 11 seeded Xavier did not have a First Four game two years ago, it did reach the Elite 8 by beating Maryland, Florida State and Arizona.
So pay attention to the St. John’s versus Arizona State play-in game tonight. You could be looking at another 11 seed destined for a deep tourney run.