2024 Sweet 16 Brackets Writeup

We break down key strategy considerations and value picks in our 2024 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 2024 in our NCAA Bracket Picks product.

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 / Second Chance Bracket Picks

Step 1: Update Team Ratings

As with our full tournament brackets, our first step in making Sweet 16 bracket picks is to create adjusted tournament ratings for all remaining 2024 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. As a result, we can make some team ratings refinements based on factors like current injury status and recent quality of play.

For instance, No. 4 Duke had some questions after a couple of poor games, but they’ve played well, and in line with longer term trends, after two more games in the NCAA Tournament.

We also review the latest betting market information (both futures odds and Sweet 16 game lines), and given some extra scrutiny to teams where our adjusted ratings differ from the market.

In those cases, we make a call on either moving our numbers more in line with the betting market, or sticking with our analysis.

Step 2: Collect Pick Popularity Data

Over the course of Monday and Tuesday during Sweet 16 week, we grab as much data on public picking trends in Sweet 16 bracket contests as we can find.

The availability of this data tends to vary year to year, since these contests are less popular than full-tournament bracket contests, and one or two sites seem to either start or stop running Second Chance contests each year.

However, we can usually find data from at least a couple large pool hosting sites (e.g. ESPN, RunYourPool) or online sportsbooks that offer these contests.

Step 3: Run Simulations & Identify Optimal Brackets

Once we adjust our team ratings and collect pick popularity data, we generate customized brackets for Sweet 16 bracket pools 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 Second Chance 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 Second Chance 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.

Bracket Strategy Principles for Sweet 16 / Second Chance Pools

Strategy for Sweet 16 pools is similar to strategy for full NCAA Tournament bracket pools in a couple ways:

  • 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.
  • In larger pools, it’s still important to make more targeted value picks, in an effort to differentiate your bracket from the masses.

However, there are also some differences with full tournament bracket strategy. 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 selective focus on a few lower-risk value picks can give you the edge overall.
  • In Sweet 16 pools, on the other hand, there aren’t as many value opportunities earlier in the bracket, partly because there are far fewer games to choose from (only 14 non-champion picks, compared to 62 in a full tournament bracket), and because opponents tend to be a bit less reckless picking early upsets. So your value bets tend to be more concentrated on a smaller number of picks.
  • In 2024, the best value stands are actually on a couple of No. 2 seeds to the Final Four in place of the far more popular No. 1 seeds in their region, with Arizona over North Carolina and Tennessee over Purdue.

Value Pick Analysis For Sweet 16 Bracket Contests in 2024

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