How to Pick March Madness Winners: 7 Perennial Attributes

August 17, 2023

March Madness, the NCAA Tournament, is a thrilling spectacle known for its unpredictability. Despite the surprises and upsets that often characterize the tournament, there are certain perennial attributes that successful teams consistently exhibit. 

By analyzing the champions of the past decade-plus, bettors can gain valuable insights into the qualities that make the team a likely contender for future March Madness victories.

March Madness Champions Rely on Upperclassmen


A consistent pattern among NCAA Tournament champions is the presence of experienced upperclassmen who play vital roles within the team. Over the past 13 years, every championship-winning team has had multiple upperclassmen contributors. Teams like the 2016-17 UNC Tar Heels, led by juniors Justin Jackson and Joel Berry and seniors Kennedy Meeks, Tony Bradley, and Isaiah Hicks, showcased the impact of experienced players during their title run. The maturity, familiarity with the system, and resilience against pressure give upperclassmen a clear advantage, making them an essential component of championship-winning teams.

March Madness Champions Are Guided by Accomplished Coaches

The role of a seasoned coach must be considered in the journey to becoming NCAA champions. Ten different coaches have won the last 13 championships, with most possessing extensive coaching experience, impressive win records, and often a history of multiple tournament appearances. Coaches like Tony Bennett and Scott Drew demonstrated their prowess by leading their teams to victory, showcasing the importance of proven leadership on the sidelines.

March Madness Champions Have Great Point Guards

Point guards have emerged as linchpins of championship-winning teams. These players drive offensive strategies, dictate the pace of play, and often appear as top scorers. The past decade has seen guards, particularly point guards, consistently named Tournament Most Outstanding Players. Their ability to navigate the game and contribute offensively has become a strong predictor of a team’s advancement in the tournament.

March Madness Champions Finish High BPI Rankings

Success in the NCAA Tournament correlates with high rankings in predictive indices like ESPN’s College Basketball Power Index (BPI). Over the past 13 years, a trend observed is that 10 of the last 13 champions ranked in the top three of the BPI. These rankings provide valuable insights into a team’s overall performance and potential for tournament success.

March Madness Champions Come from High Enrollment Population

Championship teams tend to hail from schools with larger student populations. This connection emphasizes the resources, infrastructure, and financial support larger institutions can offer their athletic programs. While enrollment size isn’t a definitive predictor, it serves as a valuable filter that ensures schools with greater resources are often better equipped for a deep tournament run.

March Madness Champions Has Sharpshooting from Beyond the Arc


An above-average three-point shooting ability has become a hallmark of championship teams. Successful teams consistently demonstrate the capacity to score efficiently from beyond the arc, creating offensive opportunities and tactical advantages. Teams like the 2018 Villanova Wildcats and the 2021 Baylor Bears have shown the importance of this attribute by excelling in three-point shooting during their championship runs.

March Madness Champions Have Elite Defenses


The adage “defense wins championships” holds in the realm of March Madness. Champions consistently rank in the top 25 in adjusted defensive efficiency, a metric that gauges a team’s defensive prowess. A solid defensive foundation ensures teams can withstand pressure, disrupt opponents’ strategies, and emerge victorious in high-stakes matchups.

Simplifying the Selection Process

To streamline your prediction process, here’s a condensed summary:

  • Upperclassmen Leaders: Look for key contributors who are juniors or seniors.
  • Proven Coaches: Opt for teams led by experienced coaches with successful records.
  • BPI Rankings: Prioritize teams in the top three of the BPI rankings.
  • Three-Point Accuracy: Select teams hitting at least 36% of their three-point attempts.
  • Elite Defense: Choose teams ranked in the top 25 for defensive efficiency.

While March Madness is renowned for its upsets, discerning common attributes among champions can enhance your predictive skills. By focusing on upperclassmen, accomplished coaches, exceptional guards, high BPI rankings, student body size, three-point proficiency, and elite defense, you can make informed predictions that stand a better chance of success.

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