March Madness is here with the first four games of the 2016 NCAA Tournament tipping off Tuesday and stretching through Wednesday. Before vying for cubicle bragging rights via office pool supremacy, here are the do's and don'ts of filling out your NCAA tournament bracket. Take heed ... or don't, at your own peril.
Knowing a little something about every team and every matchup can go long way in you picking the winners on your bracket. Is it an arduous task? It can be, yes. Will it pay dividends, though? Yes. That one little fact you may know about a team could be the difference that keeps you penciling in more winners than losers and keeps the heartbeat of your bracket pumping strong late in the game.
Don't Just Guess
There are stats floating around favoring people who do well on their brackets, despite not knowing much about college basketball. Well ... don't believe the hype. Nine times out of 10, guessing wildly without any knowledge will bust your bracket. Do so at your own risk, but believe us when we say, your bracket is going to be a bloody mess.
Do Lean On Star Players
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with UCLA from 1967 through 1969, Michael Jordan for North Carolina in 1982, Carmelo Anthony as a Syracuse freshman in 2003, and Kemba Walker's dominance and clutch play for UConn in 2011, to name a few. See where we're going with this? Star players win games ... and in the aforementioned examples, championships. When you pinpoint a player as dominant as a Brandon Ingram from Duke or Jaylen Brown from California, put some faith into them leading their teams to victory.
Don't Simply Ride Historical Trends
So one team has an historic edge against another. So what? While it's noteworthy and something to consider, don't just rely on that stat to advance your winner. Every year is different and it's up to you to see how history may not repeat itself this year. That goes back to researching, but researching within reason. Don't go history crazy.
Do Give Proven Coaches The Benefit Of The Doubt
So, Duke doesn't have as much firepower and may be too young to defend its national title, but Coach Mike Krzyzewski is as battled-tested as they come and that stands for something. Treat coaches who have seen and done it all as just that and give them the benefit of the doubt, when push comes to shove on your bracket. Trust us, a proven coach could make all the difference. We see it enough year-in and year-out to know.
Don't Over Emphasize Home Court Advantage
We heard sports radio talk the other day about Villanova possibly having a home court advantage if it's going to play the first and second rounds in Brooklyn - close enough to its Pennsylvania campus - and then right in its backyard in Pennsylvania for the Sweet 16 and Elite 8. That's if the Wildcats get that far. Sure, Villanova fans would fill up Barclays Center in Brooklyn and definitely outnumber their opponent's fans in Pennsylvania, but as raucous as they get, players have to win games. Don't put too much on crowds willing teams to victory.
Do Pencil In A Few Upsets
What would the NCAA Tournament be without its fair share of upsets? That and ... who doesn't love a Cinderella squad? By the sheer volume of games that you're going to be picking, chances are there will be some big upsets, especially within the first two rounds. Historically, fifth seeds are often victims, falling to 12s, with FiveThirtyEight.com even penning a piece entitled "Why No. 5 Seeds Are Jinxed" last March. Going back to 1995, No. 5 seeds have been upset by 12th-seeded squads 33 times in 84 games, although there were no such upsets in any of those slots last year. Still, something to consider for your upset picks.
Don't Go Crazy With Dark Horses
We all have a team that we cozy up to that has a healthy chip on its shoulder, knowing they're better than people are giving them credit for. We make them our dark horse, picking them to advance. Call them your pride picks ... pride picks with peril. Getting too carried away with them will break down your bracket quicker than a point guard does against a defense. You've been warned.
Do Go With Your Gut
You do some research on teams and their matchups and begin filling out your bracket. Go with your initial gut reaction. The moment you flinch and backtrack is the moment you'll probably blunder.
Being too much of a bracketologist could be a bad thing when picking winners in your office pool. Overthinking, which could be triggered by all you read, hear and speak about the tournament with friends, is a definite don't when it comes to vying for bracket supremacy.