BRACKET STRATEGY #3: Final Four/Champ Rules

Risk: Medium

Results: 2005 – 12th percentile in ESPN Tourney Challenge; 2006 – 92nd percentile; 2007 – 37th percentile; 2008 – 84th percentile; 2009 – 98th percentile; 2010 – 97th percentile; 2011 – 84th percentile. OVERALL AVERAGE – 72.0 percentile.

Strategy: Use the rules identified in the “Picking your Final Four and champion” articles

• Determine your Final Four and champion and fill them into your bracket

• Automatically advance top seeds three rounds (if possible), No. 2 seeds two rounds, and Nos. 3-4 seeds one round

• Advance any other Final Four qualifiers as far as possible

• Eliminate key underachieving outliers before their seed-expected win totals (if both teams are eliminated in a match-up, use upset/toss-up rules):
- teams with two or more pre-tourney losses in a row
- they’ve won less than five of their last ten games
- they have fewer than three junior or senior starters
- they’re seeded one through four and didn’t go to the previous year’s tourney
- they have an SOS softer than 80
- their coach is snake bitten (more than five tourney trips with no Elite Eight runs)

• Use upset/toss-up head-to-head rules for all remaining matchups

Outlook: This model has yielded extreme results in all seven years that I’ve used it. In 2005 and 2007, the Final Four/Champ rules yielded horrible results. But in the other five years, it’s been very competitive, potentially helping you win your pool in 2006, 2009, 2010—and maybe even last year, depending on how big your pool was. Yes, it only ranked in the 84th percentile of the ESPN Challenge, but that was the best of the 12 models last year. (Did I mention that I’d like to forget 2011?)

For 2012, how do you feel about a Michigan State/Kansas final? Surprisingly, that's what the Final Four/Champ rules and upset/toss-up guidance spit out. Kentucky and Syracuse didn't even qualify as Final Four contenders because of their youth...and that might be a flaw due to the trend toward younger teams. Baylor was the only candidate in the South, MSU was alone in the West, OSU was the lone qualifier in the Midwest, and Kansas was alone in the Midwest. (I originally had the Tar Heels qualifying, but their frontcourt reliance knocked them out...of course, now that Henson might not be playing, they won't rely so much on big men.)

In the end, Kansas prevails over the Spartans because they have had better "last ten games" momentum than MSU. That point is certainly debatable though. While Kansas did win nine of their last 10, they bowed out early in their conference tourney. Meanwhile, the Spartans played their best basketball down the stretch. But they did only win eight of their last ten...and I'm bound to follow these rules. Remember: I always stress that you should just use these models as guides..