The 2022 March Madness men’s basketball tournament could be the most wagered-on sporting event in U.S. history. Nearly $3 billion is expected to be bet legally on the tournament, and millions of people are also expected to fill out a March Madness bracket.
RJ Bell, sports betting analyst for Fox and the founder of sports handicapping site Pregame.com, has outlined some basic principles for filling out your bracket.
Bell spoke with MarketWatch for a previous NCAA tournament in an attempt to help people with their brackets — here are his tips to win your March Madness picks:
Advance your top seeds early in the tournament
No. 1 seeds are number one for a reason: they are really good.
For the first two rounds, it’s a good idea to advance the No. 1 seeds to the Sweet 16 almost without hesitation, Bell said.
The only No. 1 seed that has ever lost to a 16-seed was when University of Maryland Baltimore County beat Virginia in 2018 — No. 1 seeds advance to the sweet 16 85.4% of the time, according to historical data.
If you filled out your bracket and had No. 8 Boise State taking down No. 1 Gonzaga in round 2, you might want to reconsider.
See also: March Madness could be biggest wagering event in history, analyst says
In the first round, looks at spreads not seeding
Including games with top seeds, pay more attention to point spreads than seeds. The seed next to each team helps people see who theoretically should win, even if they don’t watch college basketball. For example, its intuitive to think a 3-seed is a better team than a 14-seed.
But Bell says people should pay attention to point spreads and not seeds when making picks. One popular example of this theory in the 2022 bracket is No. 7 Ohio State vs the No. 10 Loyola Ramblers
As a No. 10 seed, Loyola is actually favored to win the game over the higher seeded Ohio State, according to odds from DraftKings
Compare that with another matchup between the No. 7 USC Trojans and No. 10 Miami Hurricanes where the higher seeded Trojans are the betting favorites.
Pick upsets, but don’t advance them too far
To win your bracket pool you’ll need to pick some underdog teams to win. But be wary to moving them too deep in the tournament.
Double-digit seeds have only made the Final Four on five times in the since the March Madness tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, according to Bell and the NCAA.
No. 1 seeds are not a guarantee to make the Final Four
While it’s a good move to have your No. 1s in the Sweet 16, the Final Four is a different story.
“One of the most common mistakes is being too optimistic about No. 1 seeds,” Bell said.
Having your Final Four as all No. 1 seeds might seem like you’re just choosing the most likely outcome, but historically only a couple top seeds make the Final Four.
“The history is, that in the Final Four, there is either one or two of them the vast majority of years,” Bell continued.
Fans have a 1 in 9.2 quintillion chance of a perfect bracket, but don’t let perfection stop you from filling out a bracket.