TIME

March Sanity: How to Build a Better NCAA Bracket

Big teams fall in the NCAA tournament almost every year and underdogs sometimes rise to the top. And many of us end up puzzling over a March Madness bracket, the one that some guy from IT is emailing everyone about. Faced with all those blank spaces where your projected winners should go, it can be enticing to take a chance and choose an upset the 15 seed over the 2 seed —especially if you’re guessing anyway. There’s got to be a chance right?

Tuns out, long-shot is an understatement. Picking a 15 seed or a 16 seed to win is so close to statistically impossible it’s practically out of bounds.

Pro tip: If you let math be your guide, you can significantly improve your bracketology odds. Here’s a method derived from averaging the number of teams from each seed that have advanced over the last 29 years, round by round.

Round of 64: Choose four #1 seeds, four#2 seeds, four#3 seeds, three #4 seeds, two #5 seeds, two #6 seeds, two #7 seeds, two #8 seeds, two #9 seeds, one #10 seed, one #11 seed, one #12 seed, and one #13 seed to advance. There are three picks left over for you to use at your discretion.

Round of 32: Choose four #1 seeds, three #2 seeds, two #3 seeds, two #4 seeds, one #5 seed, one #6 seed to advance. There are again three picks left over for you to use at your discretion.

Sweet 16: Choose three #1 seeds, two #2 seeds, one #3 seed to advance. There are two picks left over for you to use at your discretion.

Elite 8: Choose two #1 seeds, one #2 seed to advance. There is one pick left over to use at your discretion.

Final 4: Pick one #1 seed. There is one pick left over to use at your discretion.

Championship: There is one pick left over to use at your discretion. (Note: 62% of the ultimate winners have been #1 seeds).

Numbers from cbssports.com and bleacherreport.com

[Special thanks to Jim Sannes and Mark Moog for the assist.]

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