Rules That Could Make Your March Madness, Well, Less Maddening
At no time in my life can I ever remember the NCAA Tournament being this up for grabs. Someone could say the St. Louis Billikens (I looked up what a Billiken is, it’s a charm doll… seriously?) were going to win the tourney, and probably come up with legitimate points. The number one team has had a tenure of six days for the past who-cares-to-remember number of weeks. What’s worse, this year, if you start playing the they-beat-Ohio State-who-beat-Indiana-who-beat-Michigan-State game, you can end up with a picture that is so confounded it might as well be a work by Jackson Pollock.
How does one make sense of all this commotion and fill out a bracket?
Follow these rules:
Keep it simple, stupid.
“With all these losses at the top, I’m picking Duke to lose first round!” Just stop. Don’t even. Just because no one has shown they can hold the poll position for more than six days doesn’t mean you go and hack your bracket up like you’re Freddy Kruger. We all know there are going to be upsets. It’s a given. But just because Terry in accounting said he’s high on Nichols St., doesn’t mean you take them over Kansas. Picking a few solidly researched upsets will always be better than swinging for the home run. You’re not Barry Bonds.
Hot is hot, not is not.
Teams that are hot in their conference tournaments are often just as flammable in the big dance. The Kemba-led UConn team from 2011 is a prime example of this science in action. They stormed through the Big East tournament as a #9 seed, playing five games in as many days. They beat four top 25 teams on their way to winning the Big East tournament. They ended up winning a total of 11 straight postseason games on their way to an NCAA Championship. When in doubt, ride the team on the hot streak.
If one thing can always be counted on, it’s good coaching over mediocre coaching. Guys like Bill Self, Roy Williams, or Mike Krzyzewski will know how to get their teams prepared for the big stage because they’ve been there every year since I was in diapers. They know when to keep their players loose, and when to crack the whip. Like this clip of Kansas Head Coach Bill Self participating in the team’s Harlem Shake video.
This trickles down to the players, guys who have been to the dance before will know how to handle it. Betting on experience is always a solid option. The coaches from schools like LIU – Brooklyn, while clearly capable of getting their team to the dance, just won’t be as prepared for all that comes along with a stage of this magnitude.
This may seem like a grandpa’s guide to filling out an NCAA bracket, but the way this season is going, we all need some basic principles to follow. If you want to go on believing your mad scientist approach to your bracket will pay off, I’m not stopping you. But if you want to shove crisp $100 bills in Terry’s face by the water cooler after the championship game, these rules might just make the difference.