2022 Sweet 16 Brackets Writeup

We break down key strategy considerations and value picks in our 2022 brackets for Sweet 16 (aka Second Chance) bracket contests.

We’re excited to announce the release of our customized brackets for Sweet 16 (aka “Second Chance”) bracket pools for 2022. These pools, which start fresh with the Sweet 16 round, are run by several bracket contest sites such as ESPN and RunYourPool.

How We Make Sweet 16 Bracket Picks

As with our full tournament brackets, our first step in making Sweet 16 bracket picks is to create adjusted tournament ratings for all remaining NCAA tournament teams. Now that two tournament rounds have been played, we know a bit more about the surviving teams than we did at the start of the tournament, and we can make some ratings refinements based on factors like current injury status and recent quality of play.

We also review the latest betting market information (both futures odds and Sweet 16 game lines), and give some extra scrutiny to teams where our adjusted ratings differ from the market. Sometimes that results in us moving our numbers more in line with the market, and sometimes we stick with our own analysis.

Once we finish our adjusted team ratings, we generate customized brackets for your Sweet 16 bracket pool by running thousands of computer simulations:

  • First, we simulate the rest of the NCAA tournament games using round survival odds based on our updated tournament ratings.
  • We then run thousands of Sweet 16 bracket pool simulations, by combining our tournament results simulations with public picking trends from Sweet 16 bracket contest sites. This approach enables us to test thousands of potential combinations of bracket picks, until we find the “optimal” bracket that wins a specific type of pool (i.e. a specific scoring system and pool size) the most often.

General Strategy Notes for Sweet 16 Brackets

Strategy for Sweet 16 pools is similar to strategy for full NCAA Tournament bracket pools:

  • In smaller pools, it often makes sense to play fairly conservatively, and let your opponents shoot themselves in the foot with too many risky upset picks. (However, there are fewer games to pick, so your opponents may not be quite so reckless in terms of picking upsets.)
  • In larger pools, it’s important to make more targeted value picks, in an effort to differentiate your bracket from the pack.

However, there are some differences too. For example:

  • In full tournament pools, an extremely conservative strategy in small pools can make sense. As your opponents pick too many upsets in the early rounds, your conservative play and smart handling of a few lower risk value plays can give you the edge.
  • In Sweet 16 pools, on the other hand, there aren’t as many value opportunities earlier in the bracket, partly just because there are fewer games to choose from (14 non-champion picks, compared to 62 in a full tournament bracket). So your value bets tend to be more concentrated on a smaller number of picks.
  • As a result, taking at least one early-round risk to differentiate your bracket, even in small pools, can boost your expected value. (In 2022, this is often accomplished by picking Houston to reach the Elite Eight instead of Arizona, and in some cases to pick Houston to make a deeper tournament run.)

Value Picks in Sweet 16 Brackets for 2022

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