2017 NCAA Tournament cheat sheet to win your bracket challenge

2017 NCAA Tournament cheat sheet to win your bracket challenge
(Source: WTOL)

(WTOL) - Each March, millions of Americans fill out their brackets hoping to beat their family, friends, co-workers and the other innumerable brackets.

If you were picking teams blindly, Forbes says you would have a one in 9.2 quintillion chance of picking a perfect bracket. To save you a trip to Google, one quintillion has 18 zeros. In others, it is as close to a mathematical impossibility as it gets.

While the odds are disputed, some analysts say its in the billions. Still, it is safe to say you have a better chance of winning an Academy Award, getting elected president, getting struck by lighting, or hitting the Powerball than getting a perfect bracket.

So for those who did not watch this season, we came up with a little cheat sheet that can help improve your chances.

Keep in mind these are only tips based off the eye-test and statistics. Anything can and will happen in the Big Dance and by no means are these certain.

East Region

The East features 2016 champion Villanova, the number 1 overall seed. Duke, who won four straight games to capture the ACC title, is the number 2 seed. Other intriguing teams are Baylor, Florida and SMU.

Favorites: Villanova and Duke are set to make a deep run in the tournament, although Villanova may be the team with a tougher road to the Final Four.

Despite early struggles, Duke may be the hottest team in basketball. However, if Grayson Allen, who was a lightening rod during the season for his alleged dirty play, gets in any trouble that causes him to miss a game or even a half, Duke is vulnerable. The question for those filling out a bracket is: do you want to take a chance?

Who can get hot: Florida struggled in the late stages of the season, losing three of their last four games. However, in the first meeting between the Gators and SEC champion Kentucky, Florida handed Kentucky their worst loss under John Calipari. If they can get out of the first weekend, they may be a tough opponent in the Sweet Sixteen.

Upset Alert: First round upsets are always hard to predict. If USC can beat Providence, they might be able to oust sixth-seeded SMU. USC plays in the PAC 12, which produced three teams seeded third or better.

West Region

The West features Gonzaga as the number one seed. Other notable teams include Arizona, Notre Dame, West Virginia and Northwestern, who is making their first appearance in the Big Dance.

Favorites: Gonzaga may be the top seed, but Arizona likely the favorite to come out of this region. Having won the PAC 12, Arizona is battle tested for a Final Four run. However, the Wildcats did lose an early season game to Gonzaga in December.

Who can get hot: Notre Dame and West Virginia both showed great potential during the season. Both teams competed for and lost their conference championship. Ask anyone on the 2016 Villanova Wildcats, and they will say losing a conference championship is enough motivation to bring you to success, especially with the knowledge you are a team with Final Four talent.

Upset Alert: I am not predicting Gonzaga to lose in the first round against 16th-seed South Dakota State. But if you want to look bold in front of your peers, this is the most likely one-seed to lose on the opening weekend. Gonzaga has been inconsistent at best when March rolls around and South Dakota St. is on a six-game win streak. They will put up a tough fight and it is feasible they could make history. It has to happen some time right?

A more realistic upset pick is Florida Gulf Coast, who pulled off a historic tournament run in 2013, upsetting third-seeded Flordia State, who lost two of their last three games against tournament-bound opponents. Florida Gulf Coast not only dominated their conference opponents, but played close losses against Baylor and Michigan State. However, even this one is tough to fathom.

The most reliable upset would be Gonzaga losing to Vanderbilt in the second round.

South Region

The South features North Carolina as the top seed with Kentucky as the second-seed. The South may be the most competitive of the regions featuring several Elite Eight-worthy teams including UCLA, Butler, Minnesota and Wichita State.

Favorites: This may be the toughest bracket to pick a favorite. The top three seeds (UNC, UK and UCLA) are all Final Four-worthy teams, Neither North Carolina nor UCLA even competed for a conference championship. The Tar Hills did win the ACC's regular season conference championship, while UCLA may be, top-to-bottom, the most talented team in the PAC 12. Kentucky dominated a historically weak SEC, but has looked vulnerable at times. To pick a favorite from these three, you may be better off at putting the three schools on a dart board and tossing the dart blindfolded.

Who can get hot: Wichita State is a perfect example of the underrated mid-major. The tenth-seeded Shockers have won 15 straight games and have one of the better offenses among mid-major teams. Don't be surprised if they get one roll.

Upset Alert: Even after making a case of UCLA to make it to the Final Four, it's not out of the realm of possibility the Shockers could upset the Bruins in the second round. To do this, they will also have to beat seventh-seeded Dayton, which is barely an upset.

Another upset to watch out for is twelfth-seeded Middle Tennessee State over fifth-seeded Minnesota. MTSU has big upsets in its history, while Minnesota played inconsistently in the Big 10 in a down year for the conference.


The Midwest features Kansas as the top seed with Louisville as the second-seed. Also schools featured in this region are Oregon, Michigan and Purdue.

Favorites: Kansas may be the easiest favorite pick in the entire tournament. Though the Jayhawks lost completely inexplicable games this season, including to TCU in the Big 12 tournament, they may be the most talented and most prepared team to make a Final Four run. It helps their road to the Final Four may also be the easiest of all the one-seeds.

Who can get hot: Michigan is among the hottest teams coming into the tournament. The Wolverines would not have to play Kansas until the regional final. A second-round upset over Louisville could provide enough momentum to sneak into the Final Four.

Upset Alert: There is no first-round games that jump out as an upset. (A nine-seed beating an eight-seed games do not count in my book.) But if you want one, try Rhode Island over Creighton. The Spiders are better than many believe, and Creighton was very inconsistent in conference play.

The more likely upset is Michigan over Louisville, but this is by no means certain.

The most important tip I can give is the NCAA Tournament is as unpredictable as any sporting event. While I hope these tips can help you fill out your bracket, these are by no means certainties.

So don't destroy your TV when your bracket is ultimately busted. Enjoy the games for what they are. And celebrate March Madness, one of the greatest spectacles in American sports.

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