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Andy Wittry | | March 15, 2018

How picking the team with the higher scorer helps in March

High Five: Best Final Four Cinderella stories

Let's say you're filling out your NCAA tournament bracket and you come across a matchup that you consider to be a toss-up and you need a tie-breaker stat to help you choose the winner.

In the last 10 seasons, the team with the higher leading scorer – based on his season per-game scoring average – has won more than 56 percent of the time (a 172-133 record) in NCAA tournament games starting from the second round through the national championship game. We did not count games in the rare instance that two teams' leading scorers had the same average.

Having the higher leading scorer has been a critical factor in the final weekend of the college basketball season in the last 10 years. Since 2008, teams with the higher leading scorer are 16-3 in the Final Four and 6-4 in the national championship game.

Just for kicks, we went through the last two NCAA tournaments and calculated how your bracket would fare if you picked every single game, starting with the first round matchups, based upon which team had the higher leading scorer based on season averages. In the event of two teams' leading scorers averaging the same number of points, we went with the better-seeded team.

Such a strategy would've resulted in a South Dakota State-Winthrop championship game last season and an Oklahoma-Iona championship game in 2015.

Here's the full breakdown, along with the average score and top score from Capital One March Madness Bracket Challenge users each season.

2017 NCAA tournament

Round Correct Picks
First Round 16/32
Second Round 5/16
Sweet 16 3/8
Elite Eight 1/4
Final Four 0/2
National Championship 0/1

Bracket score: 46 | Average score = 65.66 | Top score = 174

2016 NCAA tournament

Round Correct Picks
First Round 20/32
Second Round 4/16
Sweet 16 1/8
Elite Eight 1/4
Final Four 0/2
National Championship 0/1

Bracket score: 40 | Average score = 68.18 | Top score = 171

So, clearly it's not the best strategy to base your March Madness picks solely on which team has the higher leading scorer. However, if you think a matchup that takes place in the second round or later is a toss-up and you're looking for a deciding factor to pick the winner, picking the team with the higher leading scorer will yield more wins than losses.

ICYMI, here's Andy Katz on this year's NCAA tournament:

College basketball rankings: Even unranked teams find success in the NCAA tournament

Since the NCAA tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985 — its modern format — only four of 35 national champions were unranked to start the season. That’s about one in every nine years.

Only .025 percent predicted the 2021 Final Four teams in the Bracket Challenge Game

UCLA's upset of No. 1 Michigan in the Elite Eight turned what could have been a record-high number of perfect picks into a tiny number that went 4-for-4.

A huge majority of NCAA brackets have a No. 1 seed winning the 2021 championship

Here is how many brackets predicted each seed to win the national championship, from Gonzaga and the No. 1 seeds through Drexel and the rest of the No. 16 seeds.
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