NCAA tournament pools at some of the more well-known sports sites can have more than 3 million entrants, so if you want to make money, you need to make bold picks.
The good news: you can still pick the Wildcats to win.
The bad news: they won’t be the ones from Kentucky.
According to ESPN’s “Who Picked Whom,” which is the percentage of participants who selected each team to win in each respective round, almost half of all entrants (49.1 percent) have Kentucky winning the national championship game, which is higher than TeamRankings.com Survival Odds of 40.7 percent. If they lose anytime before that almost half the pool is eliminated — that’s a huge amount of leverage for one team.
A better strategy is to choose No. 1 Villanova or No. 2 Arizona to make it to the Final Four and beyond. Just 12.7 percent and 9.9 percent of brackets, respectively, have either of those teams advancing to the championship final but their probability of winning a game in the Final Four is higher for both Wildcats teams. The reverse is true for Duke and Virginia.
As for wining it all – Villanova and Arizona are being chosen in 3.1 percent and 6.6 percent of brackets, respectively, but have a win probability that is nearly double that.
Penciling in Kentucky for a loss before the title game may not make you look smart in front of your friends, but if you want to get the best bang for your buck in the larger tournament pools, it is the smart play.