Bracket Pick Strategy 2019: Beware Of These Four Sweet 16 Picks

by TeamRankings
Mar 20, 2019

Dean Wade’s injury has Kansas State severely overvalued by the public

This is a guest post from TeamRankings.com, a site that provides data-driven NCAA bracket picks and tools.

When it comes to picking a bracket, there are no golden rules. Every tournament, every team, and every potential path through the NCAA bracket is different.

The complexity of the bracket, plus popular biases, often means that public expectations for certain teams can far outstrip reality.

To maximize your edge in your bracket pool, you need to figure out who those teams are — the teams in the 2019 NCAA bracket being significantly overrated by the general public.

Then, think twice about making big bets on them in your bracket.

Evaluating Risk vs. Reward For Bracket Picks

Before we highlight some overrated Sweet 16 picks you may want to reconsider, it pays to take a step back.

Picking a great bracket isn’t only about avoiding overrated teams. In fact, in standard 1-2-4-8-16-32 bracket contest scoring, optimal strategy almost always calls for picking a number of overrated teams, especially early on.

In the first couple rounds, great teams are almost always overvalued by the public, because, well, they’re the best teams in the field. Just because the public thinks No. 1 UNC over No. 16 Iona is a bit more of a lock than it actually is (just ask 2018 Virginia), doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea to pick Iona to win.

That would be far too risky, since UNC has one of the better chances to win at least three of four games, and getting later round games right is what really brings in the points.

However, drop down a bit in quality from the top dogs, and some wiser opportunities to fade the crowd start to present themselves. You begin to find teams that are being overrated by the public to make the Sweet 16, but also don’t have a very good chance to win it all or make the Final Four.

Without further ado, according to our tournament projections and national pick popularity data, here are four examples of overrated Sweet 16 picks you might want to think twice about in your 2019 March Madness bracket.

Overrated Pick In The South: No. 4 Kansas State
Kansas State is arguably the team that is being most overvalued by the public when it comes to Sweet 16 choices. While 43% of the public has them getting to the Sweet 16, their actual odds are closer to just 18%. There’s a double whammy facing Kansas State. First, their best offensive player, Dean Wade, is battling an injury and was doubtful to play as of Wednesday morning. Second, they are facing a juggernaut of a No. 13 seed in UC Irvine, and then would have to face either a solid No. 5 seed in Wisconsin, or a criminally underseeded No. 12 Oregon. It’s a horrible draw for a team that looks not even to be at full strength.

Overrated Pick In The West: No. 2 Michigan
Michigan is a popular public choice as a Sweet 16 pick, with over 80% support (like Villanova, not a huge surprise as the Wolverines were the runner-up last year). However, that popularity far outpaces Michigan’s 61% chance of winning their first two games. While Michigan has played well in games against tournament-quality opposition, according to the offshore betting markets, they have the lowest odds to win the tournament out of all the No. 2 seeds. Michigan’s path through the bracket is part of the reason, as underseeded No. 7 Nevada is lurking as the likely Second Round matchup. Michigan’s survival odds indicate they’ll probably still make it, but if you’re looking to take an educated gamble in your bracket, especially in pools with upset bonuses, this one should be on your radar screen.

Overrated Pick In The Midwest: No. 4 Kansas
Kansas is well-known as a traditional powerhouse, and the Jayhawks would have the opportunity to play in front of a lot of hometown fans in the Regional Finals in Kansas City — if they get that far. First, Kansas will have to get by a No. 13 Northeastern team that’s back at full strength. That game isn’t a gimme as Northeastern has a low-but-realistic 27% shot at pulling off the upset. In the second round, Kansas will likely face No. 5 Auburn, and Auburn looks to be the favorite in that matchup, despite having a worse seed. While Kansas is a good team, they haven’t been the same since center Udoka Azubuike suffered a season-ending injury in January and Lagerald Vick left the team in February. Kansas’s 33% chance to get to the Sweet 16 is significantly lower than the 48% percent of the public that is picking them to get there.

Overrated Pick In The East: No. 3 LSU
Despite not winning the SEC tournament as its top seed, LSU is still a popular choice to get to the Sweet 16, with over 61% of the public picking them to make it. However, the Tigers only have about a 41% chance. Though LSU landed a No. 3 seed and have been playing better since their lineup stabilized in January, their performance has been closer to No. 5 or No. 6 seed quality. LSU is still the slight favorite to make the Sweet 16 over No. 6 Maryland, but it’s a lot closer than most people think. From the standpoint of making a contrarian pick, especially if you don’t have LSU going any farther, having them get upset before the Sweet 16 isn’t as crazy as it may seem.

What It Means For Your Bracket Picks

Should you avoid putting all four of these overrated teams above in your Sweet 16 this year?

No, almost certainly not. Two of them are still our favorites to emerge from their pods. In most pools, you’d be taking on way too much risk by not picking any of these teams to win two games.

However, if you’re in a relatively big pool, or if your scoring system provides great rewards for picking lower-seeded teams to win, then these are some of the top opportunities to consider in terms of making early-round upset picks against popular favorites. Especially if you didn’t plan on picking one of the teams above to make it farther than the Sweet 16, you might want to consider picking them to lose even earlier.

If you want to see the best bracket for your specific pool, or just need a great bracket quickly since the tournament starts soon, check out our data-driven NCAA Bracket Picks product:

NCAA Bracket Picks from TeamRankings.com »

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