FanDuel's Bracket Pick'em: 5 Value Teams to Target

A key to FanDuel's Bracket Pick'em is identifying underseeded teams that can make a run. Which teams fit that bill in the 2018 NCAA tournament?

We know the rules for FanDuel's Bracket Pick'em game, and we know we want the $5,000 top prize. If we don't get there, we can earn a split of $20,000 by topping 2,500 points. Everybody wins a prize by topping 400 points. There's a lot at stake here.

But we can't let that fat cash distract us from the ground rules of the contest. We need the sum of the seeds for our five teams to be at least 20, meaning we can't just load up on the top teams in the tourney. On top of that, all teams get a points multiplier based on their seed, as you can see here.

RoundPoints for Win
Round of 6410 times the team's seed number
Round of 3225 times the team's seed number
Round of 1650 times the team's seed number
Round of 8100 times the team's seed number
Round of 4250 times the team's seed number
Championship500 times the team's seed number

This makes it imperative that we find some under-appreciated teams that can make a run, netting us the multiplier bonus for their seed. Now that we know how the bracket breaks down, which teams help us in this quest for value?

Let's run through a few teams that could outperform their seeding and make a deep run. We'll be leaning heavily on numberFire's nERD rating, which measures overall team efficiency. Premium members can also utilize the stage odds tool to see how likely a team is to advance to each round and net us more of those sweet, sweet points. With that said, let's get to it.

2. Duke Blue Devils

The Duke Blue Devils are just a 2 seed, but that doesn't prevent them from being a value here. After all, they still get twice as many points for a win as a 1 seed, and they could be doing plenty of winning.

Duke enters the tournament ranked third in nERD, which makes abundant sense for a team that was third in Adjusted Offensive Rating, according to Sports Reference, and seventh on the defensive side. They're a solid team.

It doesn't hurt that the 1 seed in their region -- the Kansas Jayhawks -- are a bit lower on the totem pole. They're just eighth in nERD, meaning Duke wouldn't have to face a team ranked higher in nERD until the Final Four. That's plenty of time to rack up points.

Duke isn't going to move the needle much in getting you to a sum of 20. But they're still a value based on the advanced metrics, making them a team we should feel comfortable targeting.

4. Gonzaga Bulldogs

More often than not, 4 seeds aren't going to fit what we're looking for. They're faced with going up against a 1 seed in the Sweet 16, which puts a serious dent in their appeal. But the Gonzaga Bulldogs are a bit of an exception.

Despite entering as a 4 seed, Gonzaga is ninth in nERD entering the tournament. Two spots behind them is the 1 seed in their region, the Xavier Musketeers. That should grab your attention.

Gonzaga would have the defensive edge in a hypothetical matchup between the two teams, sitting 23rd in Adjusted Defensive Rating with Xavier down in 48th. Meanwhile, although Xavier does have the higher-rated offense, both teams are in the top 11 nationally. It would be one heck of a game.

If Gonzaga were to make it past Xavier, they'd have 340 points already in the bag, getting you close to that first prize line all by themselves. It's a bit risky given the matchup with Xavier, but Gonzaga has more juice than you'd expect at their seed.

5. Kentucky Wildcats

As with Gonzaga, the Kentucky Wildcats are in line to potentially face a 1 seed in the Sweet 16. That's sub-ideal. But Kentucky is rolling entering the tournament, and it could prime them for success.

Among the 5 seeds, Kentucky has the second-best odds of advancing to the Elite Eight. The only team ahead of them is the Ohio State Buckeyes, meaning we should feel pretty decent about picking an upset over Xavier -- whether it be with Gonzaga or Ohio State. Kentucky's odds are spicy, too, even with a tough path.

Assuming chalk holds, Kentucky would face a solid Arizona Wildcats team in the second round. Arizona's no scrub, but they're also a spot behind Kentucky in nERD (18th versus 19th). Then it'd be the Virginia Cavaliers up next.

nERD loves Virginia, ranking them second, but they also leave themselves open to volatility. Thanks to the nation's slowest pace, Virginia cuts the sample size within each game, meaning a lesser foe can sometimes more easily keep pace. Virginia's a great team, but they're far from a lock, especially against a team playing as well as Kentucky. Again, it's a risk to pick a team set to face a 1 seed, but Kentucky is still worth your attention.

6. Houston Cougars

Building off of the Virginia discussion, the Michigan Wolverines are another team with a slow pace that could lead to some wonkiness. That could open the door for the Houston Cougars.

Houston is ranked lower than Michigan in nERD, sitting eight spots behind, but that's not a huge gap for a 6 seed facing a 3 seed. Additionally, Michigan is the lowest-ranked 3 seed in the tournament in nERD, and Houston is the second-ranked 6 seed. As such, Houston has the best odds among all 6 seeds to advance to the Elite Eight.

If we want to get that top prize, we need to be willing to roll with some underdogs. The Cougars should be exactly that against Michigan, and they would be again against the North Carolina Tar Heels in the next round if they were to win. But they knocked off the Wichita State Shockers and hung tight with the Cincinnati Bearcats in the AAC tournament, so they're capable of beating quality foes. Houston could do plenty to get you to that sum of 20.

7. Nevada Wolf Pack

The team ranked right behind Houston in nERD is the Nevada Wolf Pack. They're in line to face Cincinnati in the second round, but if they get beyond that, Nevada could make a run.

First things first, we need to know that they do have a shot to take down Cincinnati. nERD certainly doesn't hate Cincinnati, putting them in seventh, but that's still lowest among all 2 seeds. Nevada's ranked 16th in Adjusted Offensive Rating, and Cincinnati's down in 44th. We know the Bearcats can ball on the defensive end, but this game is far from a lock.

It would be a similar story in the following round when Nevada would face the Tennessee Volunteers if chalk were to hold. Tennessee is 38th in Adjusted Offensive Rating, and their below-average pace can leave them subject to volatility. Again, Nevada would have a chance here.

You don't need a team seeded seventh in order to meet the 20-seed threshold. But a 7 seed has been in the optimal combination four of the past six years, and Nevada could be that team for this year's iteration.