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Filling Out Your March Madness Basketball Brackets
by Bovada Sportsbook

Every March, the sporting world's attention turns to college basketball. In Las Vegas, March Madness is second only to the Super Bowl in attracting attention to the casino's sportsbooks. And the Super Bowl is only for one day; March Madness lasts weeks.

Whether you make a habit of betting on March Madness or you are a casual college basketball fan who likes to fill out NCAA basketball brackets, there are a few things you should know.

First, you'll want to find out what teams are hot. Finding an underrated team and riding its hot streak can win a college basketball bracket. In 2005, fourth-seeded Louisville made it all the way to the Final Four. They also made anyone who picked them in their March Madness bracket look pretty smart. Along the way, Louisville knocked off top-seeded Washington and seventh-seeded West Virginia. In contrast, whoever picked second-seed Wake Forest or third-seed Gonzaga in Louisville's draw saw their bracket bust early.

Michigan State also wrote a miraculous how-to story for March Madness bracket players in 2005. The Spartans knocked off top-seeded Duke in the regionals and second-seeded Kentucky in the national semifinals.

Speaking of underdogs, in 2003, third-seeded Syracuse made a few NCAA basketball brackets golden and ruined a whole lot more by not only getting to the Final Four, but also winning the school's first national championship. Syracuse knocked off two top seeds in the process.

Of course, it's often the top-ranked teams that win it all - North Carolina in 2006, for example - but you should know most people are going to pick basketball schools like Duke, Kentucky, Kansas and UCLA in their NCAA bracket. It's the bracket picker who can identify the schools that might surprise who will win NCAA basketball bracket competitions most of the time.

The popularity of filling out March Madness brackets has even resulted in the creation of a new term: Bracketology. This term is also used to describe how the NCAA selection committee picks at-large bids to round out the 65 teams in the men's tournament. In fact, everyone who fills out an NCAA bracket should know how teams are selected and seeded.

Thirty teams qualify automatically by winning their conference tournaments (or regular season, as the case is with the Ivy League, which does not hold a conference tournament). That leaves 35 teams that receive at-large bids.

Most of the bids come from the following major conferences: the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, EC, and Pac-10. Remember that when comparing the records of teams from major conferences to records of teams from weaker conferences that the teams from major conferences have to play a much tougher schedule. For example, Duke from the ACC must play teams like N.C. State, North Carolina, Virginia, Miami, Florida State and Maryland in the regular season. In fact, they must play them twice, and some a third time during the conference tournament.

On the other hand, a team like Gonzaga will have their toughest games against non-conference opponents, and those are few and far between throughout the regular season.

One of the best ways to value a team before you fill out your March Madness bracket is with the Ratings Percentage Index, or RPI. The weights are 25% winning percentage, 50% strength of schedule, and 25% opponents' strength of schedule.Of course, whether you agree with the weightings or not might determine how you fill out your NCAA basketball brackets. Remember that a team with a very good winning percentage but a weak strength of schedule will be punished in the RPI ratings. But in playing those difficult games, those teams may have acquired the mettle it takes to be bracket busters. And you should pay attention to that fact.

5Dimes Sportsbook