NCAA Tournament Cheat Sheet 2015: Best Upset Picks, Top Tips and Analysis

By Zack
March 18, 2015 1:40 pm Last Updated: March 18, 2015 1:56 pm

Need last minute tips for the NCAA tournament? Some key information has cropped up that will help you out.

The biggest question in the bracket: Will Kentucky make it all the way or not? Sure, the odds listed–about 40 percent–favor the Wildcats. But the best way to win a bracket pool is actually to choose against Kentucky at some point, since more people (49 percent) are choosing the Wildcats as national champion, a figure higher than their survival odds.

A better bet? Villanova (12 percent), Arizona (9.7 percent), Wisconsin (9.4 percent), or Gonzaga (8.3 percent), all of which have better than 8 percent odds to win the tournament, according to Team Rankings

Overall, though, picking favorites is almost always the correct choice, especially into the Final Four. 

“Since the Tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, 18 of the 30 national champions were No. 1 seeds,” noted Sporting News. Also, 73.3 percent of the Final Four participants since that year have been No. 1, No. 2, or No. 3 seeds, so at least three of the teams you slot in the Final Four should be top three seeds.

Few expect Kentucky to fall super early, so pick them making the Sweet Sixteen at the very least, or perhaps all the way to the Final Four.

Another key to brackets is upset picks. It’s safe to pick at least one No. 12 seed over a No. 5 seed, since at least one of those upsets almost always happens. We recommend Buffalo over West Virginia, which is supported by Buffalo having a 33 percent chance of winning, or Wofford over Arkansas, which is more of an analysis pick than an odds pick.

The easiest potential upsets on the slate are No. 11 Texas over No. 6 Butler and No. 10 Ohio State over No. 7 VCU. Both higher seeds have higher odds of winning than losing.

More NCAA: 

Top First Round Picks, Odds, and Tips
Most Likely First-Round Upsets
President Obama’s Full Bracket

Four other upsets rank 35 percent or higher in terms of odds of happening–No. 11 Dayton over No. 6 Providence (38 percent); No. 10 Georgia over No. 7 Michigan State (35 percent); No. 10 Davidson over No. 7 Iowa (38 percent); No. 11 UCLA over No. 6 SMU (37 percent).

Another upset pick to think about–No. 2 Kansas falling either in the first round to No. 15 New Mexico State or in the second round to No. 7 Wichita State or No. 10 Indiana. Kansas relies heavily on three-pointers and free throw, possibly setting up a surprising loss. 

Out of the No. 1 seeds, Duke may be the weakest. The Blue Devils lost last year in the first round to Mercer, and have improved their porous defense but perhaps not enough, only ranking 57th in the nation. If Jahlil Okafor gets in foul trouble, Duke could get into serious trouble, although their early bracket looks favorable.

Check back for more analysis today and tomorrow.