I am no expert but over the last three years I place 2nd twice and won one time. So, here are some tips I use to pick my bracket:
1. Advance the 1 seeds to the sweet Sixteen: I know Kansas lost last year to Northern Iowa but it is extremely rare for a 1 seed not to make it to the sweet 16. In fact, it has only happened four times since 1985. Just advance all four 1 seeds to the 16.
2. The number 1 overall seed has only won once in the last 10 years: That was UNC in 07. This means: Don't pick Ohio State to win. I think Ohio State is the best team with the least flaws but I am not picking them to win.
3. For the first round pick 2 upsets per day: One in the early games and one in the late games. Don't overkill with upsets. The 12 seed wins about 33% and the 13 about 31%. I usually pick 2 11 seeds, 1 12 seed, and 1 13 seed.
4. Pick 2 10 vs 7 winners and 2 9 vs 8 winners: This is just based off what I have seen. If you can get these games right it is points that a lot of others might not get. It might only be 8 points between these but they can be a big 8 points since not many people get these right.
5. Research the 7 vs 10 and 8 vs 9 games: As I said in #4, getting these games right can be huge in the long run. They are equal to getting one game right in the elite eight. So, if you can get these 8 games right you can gain a 9th elite eight pick essentially. With that said, don't just go up to the bracket and pick the games. Spend 3 or 4 minutes on each game and pick it after good research. See which team has the better guard play. However, if one team rebounds really well and one sucks on the glass take the rebounding team (see UNLV vs. Illinois this year)
6. Advance the 2-4 seeds to the 2nd round: There is an occasional upset in the 1st round of these seeds but it is extremely difficult to get it right. So, the safest thing to do is just advance them.
7. Pick one 7vs10 to beat a 2 seed in the 2nd round: This usually happens in every year. This year I have Washington beating UNC. This is because: 1. Washington has way more experience. 2. Washington has better guard play. Those two things are why I have them winning. UNC is a young team that is very turnover prone. Those types of teams don't fare well in the tournament (see Kentucky last year)
8. Pick Michigan State to the Sweet 16: I learned the hard way last year. I thought Michigan State was a sleeper team but I got nervous and changed it at the last minute. I should have stuck with my guts. Michigan State always gets to the Sweet 16. With that said:
9. Don't pick Michigan State to the Sweet 16: My normal strategy is to take Michigan State to the sweet 16. However, the risk is not worth the reward this year. Take Florida in round 2.
10. Look at Risk vs. Reward: Lets say for example, you have Kansas vs. Louisville in the sweet 16 and you think Louisville will win. But then you think Louisville will lose in the Elite 8. The risk of having a possible champion (Kansas) out in the sweet 16 is not worth the reward of advancing Louisville one more round. Therefore, even though you think Louisville will win, take Kansas in your pool. This is because, if Kansas does go onto win it all, it is much better to have them in the Elite 8 than the Sweet 16. Another example could be advancing Florida to the Final 4. If you get it right, it will be huge. But, Florida could very easily lose in any of its 2nd, 3rd, or 4th round games. The possibility of an early exit for Florida (maybe to Mich. State in Round 2) is not worth the reward of getting the Final 4 pick right.
11. Pick the safest teams to the final four: These are teams that are very consistent with none or one head scratching losses. They don't rely on any one aspect of their game. This years teams are: Ohio State, Syracuse, Duke, San Diego State, Kansas, Notre Dame, Purdue, Pittsburgh, and Florida. Now the problem is narrowing this down to four teams.
12. Do pick one surprise Sweet 16 team: This is a good example of risk vs. reward. Lets take for example Wisconsin vs. Belmont and then Belmont vs. Kansas State. Since it is very unlikely that Wisconsin or Kansas State make it passed the Sweet 16 and Pittsburgh, it is worth the risk to pick Belmont to the Sweet 16. If you are right then you get 1 point for the 1st round and 2 points for the second round. If Belmont losses in the 1st round you only lose 3 points. 3 points could lead you to victory but it probably won't cost you a victory.
13. Don't pick a Cinderella past the Sweet 16: It is very rare to get a George Mason or Davidson. However, it is very likely to get a Cinderella into the Sweet 16. So, don't take the chance of missing 8 points or even 16 points for a Final four for the chance at picking this year's Cinderella.
14. Do pick teams with incredible 3pt shooting to advance one round: Find a lower seeded team that can really stroke it from downtown, and move them forward one round only. For example, Villanova. But don't pick Villanova. They are slumping and cold from 3 and their star is hurt. Another possibility is Wofford.
15. Backfill your bracket: Put your 8 elite eight teams first and then fill in the sweet 16, round 2, and round 1. This prevents you from over-thinking and making dumb mistakes. You know in your mind who you think will make the elite eight but you might over-think a match-up in round 2 and eliminate them. For example, people don't think Pittsburgh matches up well with Old Dominon so they might take ODU. Dumb!
16. Have fun: No explanation needed. And now, my bracket:
Round 1 Winners: Ohio State, George Mason, West Virginia, Kentucky, Xavier, Syracuse, Washington, North Carolina
Round 2 Winners: Ohio State, West Virginia, Syracuse, Washington
Sweet 16 Winners: Ohio State, Syracuse
Elite 8 Winner: Ohio State
Explanations: I think Kentucky and North Carolina are set up for losing in round 2. They are inexperienced, have inconsistent guard play and 3pt shooting. They will both be facing tough defensive teams in Washington and West Virginia with Senior leadership and good guards. I think Syracuse vs. Ohio State will be a great game but I think Ohio States balance of size, shooting, experience, and smarts will win them the game. Jardine and Triche are awesome when they are on but they are inconsistent and vs. Ohio State they will falter.
Round 1 Winners: Duke, Michigan, Arizona, Texas, Missouri, Connecticut, Temple, San Diego State
Round 2 Winners: Duke, Arizona, Connecticut, San Diego State
Sweet 16 Winners: Duke, San Diego State
Elite 8 Winner: San Diego State
Explanations: The first round upset for me is Missouri over Cincinatti. Cincy has inconsistent guard play and a big man in Yancy Gates that does not always try. Mizzou plays incredible high pressure defense and has great guard play. Texas is my second round team primed to lose. They have inconsistent guard play, can't shoot free throws, and have inconsistent defense. San Diego State vs. Duke will be a great game but I think SDSU's defense and length will frustrate Duke's 3pt shooters and SDSU will win in OT.
Round 1 Winners: Kansas, UNLV, Richmond, Louisville, Georgetown, Purdue, Florida State, Notre Dame
Round 2 Winners: Kansas, Louisville, Purdue, Notre Dame
Sweet 16 Winners: Kansas, Purdue
Elite 8 Winners: Kansas
Explanations: Richmond is my upset pick in this region along with Florida State. Richmond is a streaky 3pt shooting team that when on can take over a game. They come into the tourney on a high and can upset Vandy, who has a history of losing in round 1. Florida State plays incredible defense and has Senior leaders. Purdue vs. Notre Dame will be a great game but I don't think Notre Dame can stop Johnson and Moore. Kansas should not have much trouble with Purdue.
Round 1 Winners: Pittsburgh, Old Dominion, Utah State, Belmont, Gonzaga, BYU, Michigan State, Florida
Round 2 Winners: Pittsburgh, Utah State, BYU, Florida
Sweet 16 Winners: Pittsburgh, Florida
Elite 8 Winners: Pittsburgh
Explanations: This is my upset filled region. I think Old Dominion will win by 10. Utah State is one of the best teams in college basketball. They are great on defense and offense and should be able to shock everybody. Belmont is one of my hot picks as well. They should have been a 10 or 9 seed and Wisconsin's offense is inconsistent. St. John's is missing D.J. Kennedy and Zaga is one of the hottest teams in the nation. Michigan State is a very good team that has a great coach. Utah State vs. Belmont will be a great game but I think Utah State prevails. Michigan State vs. Florida will also be another great game but I think Florida prevails. Gonzaga vs. BYU will be an incredible battle but I think the fighting Jimmer's will win. Pittsburgh should cruise through this region with relative ease and be ready for the final 4.
Ohio State over San Diego State
Kansas over Pittsburgh
Explanations: Ohio State will be surprised by SDSU. SDSU will almost pull an upset but Ohio State will win in OT. Kansas will also struggle with Pittsburgh but I think Kansas wins because of the Morris twins. Pittsburgh will have a chance late but falter.
Kansas over Ohio State
Explanations: This is just me following my rules. The overall #1 seed almost never wins so I am taking Kansas. I do believe Kansas would win this matchup anyways though. The Morris twins and I think Josh Selby steps up big in this game and Kansas wins 85 to 83.