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Tourney Pick'em 101: Bracket tips that could net you a billion

Brad Evans
The Dagger

ONE. BILLION. DOLLARS.

Let that soak in for a moment. Private planes, personal chefs, golden toilets, diamond-studded collars for your teacup yorkie, entire island nations in the Caribbean – they could all be yours.

That is, IF you pick an impeccable bracket.Heck, the odds are only one in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808.

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For those non-Mathletes in attendance that's just barely over nine quintillion. Sure the likelihood of you getting mauled to death by a mountain lion, flattened by falling space junk or contracting the human version of mad cow disease is stronger, but as Lloyd Christmas mouthed so poetically in "Dumb and Dumber," "So you're saying there's a chance?!"

Enter the game. Fill out a bracket. And you most certainly will.

Lace up your Chucks, self-proclaimed bracket guru. There are limitless riches on the line.

TIP-INS – A FLIGHT FULL OF COMMON STRATEGIES

Below are five tips chock-full of pertinent info that could send you to a championship:

Top dogs don't necessarily pack the most vicious bite

Since the tournament expanded to its current capacity in 1985, only 40.5-percent of No. 1 seeds have advanced to the Final Four. During that span, only once have all four top seeds made it to the Mecca of college hoops (2008). Yes, elite squads have more favorable odds of making a deep run, but sage players aim for variety when penciling in a team on the bracket line. Typically, the Final Four will feature two No. 1's and two lower seeded teams from the 2-4 range. Last season's Final Four followed a more unusual pattern as one No. 1 (Louisville), two No. 4s (Syracuse and Michigan) and a No. 9 (Wichita St.) reached the national semifinals. This year's No. 1 seeds are Florida, Arizona, Wichita St. and Virginia.

Don't fall in love with too many Cinderellas

Selecting upsets is a bragging exercise. Everyone wants to boast to their buddies that they had the stones to pick a team from the Southland Conference. But becoming enamored with an abundance of underdogs can bloody your bracket in a hurry. Shocker specials do happen, but not nearly as often as many would lead you to believe. According to BracketScience.com, roughly 16 percent of top seeds per season are bounced early on average. However, that number has trended upward of late. Last year, was overloaded with a high number of unexpected topples. An astounding 20.8 percent of higher seeds were bitten by the upset bug – the dispatching of No. 2 seed Georgetown No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast the most noteworthy. Obviously, don't pick by the book; just be mindful that small schools do occasionally upend regional favorites from power conferences, but rarely over multiple rounds. Here's a breakdown of the Round 1 winning percentage for teams seeded No. 11 or lower since 1985 (Note: 11s and 12s are the most likely to wear a glass slipper):

No. 11s (39-77, 33.6%); No. 12s (41-75, 35.3%); No. 13s (25-91, 21.6%); No. 14s (17-99, 14.6%); No. 15s (7-109, 6.0%); No. 16s (0-116, 0%)

Heads or tails? Flip-a-coin matchups

The NCAA selection committee most seasons does a masterful job matching close-seeded teams of similar skill levels. As a result, 8-9 and often 7-10 games are highly competitive crapshoots. In the modern tourney era, No. 9s have had a slight advantage, winning 51.7 percent of its matchups. Conversely, No. 10s have won only 39.7 percent of the time. Such notable games this year are Gonzaga (8) vs. Oklahoma St. (9) and Texas (7) vs. Arizona St. (10).

Hit the books

Upon graduation, you may have vowed never to enter another classroom, physically or virtually, again. But research favors the champion. In this age of endless convenience, accessing vital information is just one click away. Immersing yourself in columns/videos on Yahoo! Sports is the first step for success. For the advanced, numbers-rich sites like BracketScience.com and KenPom.com are also invaluable resources. Pools can be won accidentally, but increasing your knowledge on the subject matter only enhances your chances.

Eat a well-balanced diet

Execution on both ends of the floor is what all basketball coaches strive for. Schools that not only force turnovers, guard the glass and generally frustrate opponents, but also can enforce their will offensively are typically in the best position to advance deep. Final four participants since 2003 finished with an average overall defensive efficiency rank of 18.16. Amazingly, their average offensive efficiency rank, 18.14. Entering this year's tournament, Louisville, Florida, Wichita St. and Villanova are the only teams that slot inside the top-20 in both categories. Picking well-rounded teams is imperative to splashing your bracket pool.

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