March 14, 2010
You watched nothing but basketball all weekend. You studied all the top seeds. You vowed to win back bragging rights from the marketing assistant who still won't let you forget that she finished ahead of you last March.
But before you submit your bracket, here's a quick list of Do's and Don'ts that might help you climb toward respectability in your office pool next week:
DO: Take a classic No. 5 over No. 12 upset in the first round. Since 1989, it has happened every year but two. May I suggest UTEP over Butler if you're looking for an enticing option?
DON'T: Take a No. 15 or 16 seed to win its first-round game, no matter how good a feeling you have about Lehigh. Those plucky No. 16 seeds are a solid 0-for-100 against No. 1s since the bracket expanded to its current format, while only four No. 15s have won a game during that same span.
DO: Pay attention to the Las Vegas odds when searching for possible "upsets." No. 12 seed Arizona was a one-point favorite over No. 5 Utah in the first round last year and No. 10 USC was a two-point favorite over No. 7 Boston College. Vegas nailed it both times.
DON'T: Pay attention to which team's mascot would win in a fight. I like a Grizzly Bear in a death match against pretty much anything. But I don't like the Montana Grizzlies against the New Mexico Lobos or the Oakland Grizzlies against the Pittsburgh Panthers.
DO: Advance a double-digit seed to the Sweet 16. Twenty-three have made it that far since 1985, and there are several candidates for deep runs this year like No. 13 seeds Siena and Murray State.
DON'T: Advance them any further. Aside from George Mason's miracle run three years ago as an 11 seed, the clock tends to strike midnight on Cinderellas in the second week of the tournament.
DO: Put at least one No. 1 seed in your Final Four. A top seed has reached the Final Four every year except 1980 and 2006.
DON'T: Put all four No. 1 seeds in your Final Four. It has only happened in 2008, and this year's No. 1s aren't juggernauts like Kansas, Memphis, UCLA and North Carolina were that season. Plus, if you don't take some risks, you'll wind up losing your bracket contest to the mail clerk who did.
DO: Go with your heart if your alma mater is Kansas, Syracuse or Kentucky.
DON'T: Go with your heart if your alma mater is Wofford.
DO: Pick a past champion to win it all. Ten of the last 15 champs are multi-time winners and all four of this year's No. 1 seeds have cut down the nets before.
DON'T: Pick the defending champion to win it all. To find North Carolina's name, you'll need to print out an NIT bracket.