March Madness is arguably the best time on the sports calendar. Even casual basketball viewers show interest in the NCAA Tournament, filling out brackets and tuning into games throughout the day.

Whether it's with members of your office or your group of friends, March Madness pools give everyone who participates a chance to win some money. It doesn’t take a wealth of knowledge of all 68 teams in the field to finish it first place. All that’s needed is some luck and a few basic pieces of information regarding the tournament.

Here are a few tips for filling out your 2021 NCAA bracket.

Play it safe with your national champion

Cinderella teams are the story of the first weekend of the tournament. Sometimes those teams make it all the way to the Final Four, like No. 11 seed Loyola-Chicago three years ago, but those long shots almost never go on to win the national title.

Twenty-two of the last 23 national champions have been a No. 1, No. 2 or No. 3 seed. It’s been 32 years since a team seeded lower than No. 4 won it all. More than 40% of No. 1 seeds reach the Final Four, and 11 of the last 15 national champions were the top seed in their region. In most bracket pools, picking the title winner correctly is worth the most points, making it your most important decision.

Don’t pick against Gonzaga early

Some of the best teams in the country are bound to be eliminated much earlier than expected. No. 1 Gonzaga won’t be one of those teams. With a perfect 26-0 record, the Bulldogs have made themselves the clear team to beat in this year’s NCAA Tournament.

That’s not to say Gonzaga is going to blow through every opponent, but it would be a mistake to pick against them prior to the Final Four. Loaded with NBA-caliber prospects, Gonzaga leads the field by scoring 92.1 points per game. During the regular season. the Bulldogs defeated each team seeded No. 2-No. 4 in its region, winning all of those games by double digits.

Pay attention to injuries and COVID protocols

A few teams won’t be at full strength in the tournament, severely hurting their chances of going on a deep run. Whether it’s an injury to a top player or a positive COVID-19 test, top seeds could be upset because of unfortunate circumstances.

Both No. 3 Kansas and No. 4 Virginia are waiting to see which players will be available in the first weekend after positive COVID-19 tests within the program forced the teams to prematurely withdraw from their respective conference tournaments. No. 1 Michigan might no longer be a top-four team in the country now that second-leading scorer Isaiah Livers is out indefinitely with a foot injury. The absence of senior guard Collin Gillespie is a major loss for No. 5 Villanova.

Follow the upset trends

The higher-seeded teams don’t always have a significant advantage. In fact, recent history says some of the lower seeds have close to a 50-50 chance to pick up a first-round victory.

The No. 12 seeds have a 14-18 record against No. 5 seeds since 2012, and all but one No. 5 seed was bounced in the first round of the last NCAA Tournament. At least one No. 12 seed has advanced in 30 of the last 35 years, and 21 No. 12 seeds have reached the Sweet 16. No. 11 seeds actually had a 13-11 record against No. 6 seeds in the last six tournaments. A No. 11 seed has reached the Sweet 16 in eight of the last 10 tournaments.

NCAA Tournament Bracket
A general view of a giant NCAA Championship bracket adorning the facade of the JW Marriott hotel on Feb. 27, 2021, in Indianapolis, Indiana. Jamie Squire/Getty Images)