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How I pick an NCAA Tournament bracket

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It's Monday morning, and like many Americans, I am at a desk, looking up information on college basketball teams that I have only a passing familiarity with. I'm giving up the chance to get ahead on my work, being unproductive on my company's time, filling my brain with minutiae and trends, creating mental clutter...

It's March, it's NCAA Tournament time, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Some brackets to print, discussion of the Rumble's bracket Challenge and a large Bracket Challenge SB Nation has put together with Yahoo!, some lines of thinking for putting together brackets... below the fold.

Before we get started:

First, get your (printable) NCAA bracket. You'd be surprised how many brackets aren't designed for printing. If you want times and records, you may prefer 2012 ncaa bracket times + records. Click to embiggen.


Second, join a bracket. I have one on ESPN and a few on Yahoo!; SB Nation is helping cover costs on the Rumble and other SB Nation sites through the Wisdom of the Crowds bracket. So check that out.

And we here at the Rumble have a Bracket Challenge with no money involved, just pride. All are welcome, the password is garden2012.

Third, stop worrying. It's kind of like dating - if you put too much pressure on yourself, try to hard, the results aren't great. Be yourself. Follow your dislikes. Acknowledge your hates. Then insert some logic.

For example, say you hate the way Kentucky does business with their one-and-dones, their loud tradition, their slick Calipari. That's going to work into your feelings about picking UK, and you might have valid points about a lack of experience. You've acknowledged your hate.

Now, add the logic. Kentucky has lost two games - the second in the SEC title game after which Cal - and Cal wished the loss would have happened earlier so his team could rest more. So don't knock Kentucky out in the first round. But in the Elite Eight? Even the Sweet Sixteen? Run with it.

After that, I go to the stats sites (,, or if you have a subscription), and I look for:

  • sitting ducks - those major conference teams that sleepwalk'd their way through much of the season (UConn, for example),
  • wildly flawed teams with poor defenses and great offenses (like Duke, Missouri) - Luke Winn agrees, those teams just don't win it all;
  • teams that find new and improved ways to lose strange games (like Florida - look at their last 3 weeks),
  • three-pointer dependent teams with no inside balance (Notre Dame),
  • teams with talented future pros who can play (which could be UConn... or better yet, UNC),
  • don't discount a great NCAA Tournament coach like Tom Izzo,
  • and of course, the classic 12/5 upset pick.

Mind you, some of these tips get me wins... but I haven't won a bracket in years, unfortunately. And that's because there's no science, really; you're safe going with no upsets, and some team will come out of nowhere and illogically win a number of games. Maybe it's the Colorado schools. Or Harvard.

How do you go about picking your brackets? Which team will emerge from the field of 68 and surprise?

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