You’ve methodically filled out your N.C.A.A. basketball tournament bracket, choosing winners of 63 games using extensive research, surefire strategy and deep knowledge of the field. Now, there’s just one remaining field: a tiebreaker question asking for a prediction for the final score of the championship game.
How can you guarantee yourself the win?
Admittedly, the chances are probably low that your pool’s winner will be determined by the tiebreaker. You’re probably better off reading other advice about the actual picks, like our men’s and women’s bracket analyses.
But here’s a simple way of taking a guess at the tiebreaker. Some contests ask for each team’s score, while others ask for a total combined score. Looking at the last 20 men’s championship games:
The median winning team’s score was 76, and the average was 74.7.
The median losing team’s score was 69, and the average was 65.85.
The median total combined score was 144, and the average was 140.55.
The averages were dragged down by the low-scoring championship game in 2011, when Connecticut beat Butler, 53-41, in what was generally considered one of the lousiest title games in recent memory. If you want to exclude that outlier, you could add one or two points to the numbers above.
Last year, in a showdown of No. 1 seeds, Baylor beat Gonzaga, 86-70 (156 total points). Both teams are seeded No. 1 again, though they cannot meet in the final this year.
The women’s title-game scores show bigger gaps between the winners and losers: The median scores were 74.5 points for the winning team, 59 points for the losing team and 133.5 total combined points. Last year’s final, however, was a tight, low-scoring contest: Stanford beat Arizona, 54-53 (just 107 total points).