It's 888 Miles to Chicago...
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So many games...so many teams...how does one pick a bracket?  How can a sane person make heads or tails of 63 games?  More importantly, how can one be successful at picking the winners in all those games...or at least enough winners to win whatever pool they are in?  How?  I haven't the slightest clue.  I've only won 1 pool I've ever entered.  But this isn't about me, this is about you, and the daunting task you have ahead of you.  It's hard to pick a bracket when you're asking questions like "Who in the hell is Winthrop?"  and "Wait a sec, you mean they play basketball at USC as well?"  Let's start with the basics, and work our way up from there...

Okay, first, goto your PC and find a printable bracket.  Go ahead and print it out...actually make 3 copies.

Now, grab a writing untensil...doesn't matter what...pencil, pen, crayon, eyeliner...just anything handy.

Find a mostly quiet spot where you can work...free of nosy jerks that want to "review" your picks...they'll either try to steal your picks, or mislead you...remember, in a Tournament pool, you have no friends.

You have everything you need...now comes the easy part...start circling the winners based on nothing but instinct.  Just go game by game, and make the pick.  When you're done, set that aside.

Grab the next bracket...now go through picking the bracket you hope/wish would happen.  If you have a favorite team, they're winning it, even if it's Holy Cross, or Jackson St...or heaven forbid Syracuse.

Finally, grab the last bracket, and fill out what you THINK will happen.  This is the bracket based off all your gained knowledge of watching ESPN, CBS, Hoosiers, Blue Chips, and countless hours of Dickie V segments.  This is a bracket than any TV analyst would be proud of.

Now, the final step...and this is important.  Take the last 2 brackets and throw them away.  And turn in the first bracket you did.  Trust me, it's the best shot.

But you're saying, "listen you goat-herder, what kind of chicken choking advice is that?"  Fair enough, I've given you the physical steps, but I haven't armed you with the real knowledge one needs to fill out the sacred bracket.  Not to worry, some simple guidelines are just around the corner.

Here are some helpful, general hints for filling out those brackets...

Find the person that knows the least about sports, and ask them

The whole bracket thing is mostly a crap shoot...it's basically a lotto ticket disguised direct challenge to your manhood.  Sometimes the people that know the most, over think things.  So find the buffoon that doesn't know anything...the one that when sports is brought up, starts talking about his favorite Star Trek episode...or the woman who's only comment on sports is "Man, Jeter is hot".  These people are here to help you.

Don't be a homer...just don't do it

There's a reason for filling out the "dream" bracket...it's so you don't do it for real.  I mentioned I've only won 1 pool...well, I won because literally every person in the pool picked either Gonzaga or UW to win the whole thing...and several had them meeting in the championship game!  Did I mention I live in Seattle?  I won, cause I was the only person who had a "sane" bracket.  Different piece of advice, if you can find a pool populated by homers...ENTER IT.

Whatever you do, don't use the handy record listings

For some god awful reason, each bracket sheet has 3 things listed on it...Team, Seed, and Record.  Ignore the record at all cost.  It is not an insight into the team in any way.  Long ago, in what will be referred to as the late ‘80s, I filled out my first bracket...I looked at it, not knowing anything about college basketball...and saw the records, and the seeds and started saying things like "Why is SnortyPants U a 14 seed when they have a record of 27-2?  I mean, they're playing a Michigan team that is only 21-9!"  Needless to say, the results were not good.  When you have a team like Richmond winning it all, well, you're not living in the real world.

Don't ever pick the "guaranteed upset"

In the world of constant analysis, and over-analysis...there is always a game or 2 that everyone circles as the "upset special" or some other asinine term.  They are called upsets for a reason...no one expects them...if everyone expects them, it ceases to be an upset.  Ignore all the hot air, and just go with the gut.  On that note...

Don't listen to the experts...they are paid to do one thing, talk

I got news for you...all those guys you see on TV talking till they are blue in the face about what they think is "fact"...they get paid to talk, not be right.  If they were paid to be right...they wouldn't stay employed very long.  Nah, they get paid cause they entertain us...now I'm not going to pretend that I know the answer to your questions...I don't...I'm just saying, don't fill out a bracket based on what an "expert" told you...be right or wrong on your own.

With the general guidelines our of the way...here are some ways to break the mental tie between 2 teams...you're staring at a 12-5 matchup...and you just freeze up...well, then turn to these guidelines, and hopefully, you'll keep your head.

Simple Math, Lower seed divided by higher seed equals double digits?

If you take the lower seed (15) and divide it by the higher seed (2) and you get a double digit number, always pick the higher seed.  And yes, there is only 1 matchup that this happens in the first round…

Pick by the colors...remember when in doubt, go with blue.

Look around, the teams with the "funky" uniforms, are usually the more obscure school...or should we say the "lesser" school.  So a team with blue or red as a dominant color is usually a good bet.  If a team is mauve or pink...just stay away.

Can a Musketeer beat a Tiger? 

Simply picture the mascots from the 2 teams coming to life, and then battling to the death...which one wins?  This can be hard if you have 2 teams with Wildcats are involved...and believe me it happens every year (Kentucky-Villinova)...or it can be pretty funny if you imagine a Wild hog beating the snot out of a Condom (Arkansas-USC).

Small children are a great choice

I would say use a drunk chimp, but trust me, those things are hard to find.  Now small children, they're everywhere.  If you don't have one of your own, go down to the local playground, and walk right up to the nearest kid eating sand and say, "Hey, who do you like in the Purdue-Arizona matchup? It's a 8-9 game, just drawing a blank."  You'll either get the answer you want, or the kid's dad will punch you in the face and screaming "We're a Boilermaker family you son of a..."

When in doubt, go with the hottest cheerleaders rule

Here's the thing...if a school has hot cheerleaders...and a hot female population in general...well, don't you think they would have an easier time drawing the best young male athletes?  Um, yeah, it never figured into my college decision...never looked at the whole "male-female" ratio...nope.  Trust me, if you've got Texas on one side, and New Mexico St on the other...um, yeah, go with the Longhorns...nothing against New Mexcio...but Texas has sheer numbers.

My advice, start drinking heavily

Hey, when all else fails...when you're stumped beyond belief...start drinking like crazy, and maybe just maybe the answer will come to you during a 2am Taco Bell run.  If not, maybe at 4am when you're sitting on the crapper due to the 2am Taco Bell run.  Worst case scenario...you wake up with a splitting headache, next to a "chick" named Earl, and you've gotta flip a coin to pick that game...but hey, it's as good a chance as any.  If you're smart though, ask Earl's advice.

Now forget everything you just read, and fill out your bracket and enjoy the greatest 2 days in sports...it's a wild ride.

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