Five ways to win your NCAA Tournament office pool without really trying: Usehate wisely
Thanks, NCAA. Now that the field of teams in the big dance is 68 instead of 65, you have to fill out a winning NCAA Tournament bracket by Tuesday evening to make the deadline for many office pools.
With the new First Four games on Tuesday and Wednesday night, the NCAA even made up a fake holiday — Monday's National Bracket Day — to drive home the point of getting your brackets done earlier than usual.
So even if you've been following hoop dreams closely all season, there's not much time to take into account RPIs, tournament records and matchup histories. So you know what? Take all that and throw it out the window.
Here are five better ways to join the madness. (And if you end up picking Hampton over Duke, just give a mischievous smile and act like you know something everyone else doesn't.)
Like a Prayer
Since we all know that a higher power is involved in all sporting events (that's why quarterbacks thank God before their offensive line), obviously schools with a higher degree or focus on religion should go far in the tournament. This includes not just potential Cinderellas like Temple, St. John's, and even Saint Peter's, but also religiously-founded schools like Notre Dame, Belmont, Villanova and Gonzaga, and even schools in places where people are more likely to engage in prayer — think Utah State, Texas A&M or West Virginia.
We do not, however, endorse choosing a weakened BYU to go all the way. There's picking David over Goliath, and then there's lunacy.
The Hate Bracket
Duke. Texas. UCLA. Admit it, you know you hate somebody in this bracket. (Or maybe you got accepted into every school you applied to. Aren't you special.) Stop suprressing those emotional urges and flip them upside down, giving your least favorite teams a ride to the finals.
If they win, so do you. If you lose, you're still happy. It's a win-win.
The Blind Bracket
Not ready to go on in with your emotional picks? One way to remove any hint of prejudice is with The Wall Street Journal's blind bracket. They've anonymized the entire 68-team field, inserting dummy names like the Seahorses, Salamanders and Storks. (Note to colleges: I'd like more real teams with small, non-threatening animals as mascots.)
The blind bracket gives you only a vague seed range, RPI and conference, along with tidbits like "strong at forcing turnovers," "not much of a bench," and "if the threes are falling, look out," forcing you to choose based on real and not perceived strengths and weaknesses.
The Geek Methodology
The NCAA heavily relies of the RPI metric is choosing the seeds. It's decent, but not infallible. Among college basketball number crunchers, no one has garnered more respect than Ken Pomeroy, who ranks teams every season with a modified pythagorean calculation.
What does that mean? Who knows? If a baseball stats guy can call a presidential election better than the professional pollsters, Pomeroy's ratings can be used to fill out your bracket.
Judge a Book by Its Cover
If all of the above options still sound like too much research (and not enough fun) you could always put your faith in your excellent taste. Slate has created tournament brackets with the teams identified only by either their team colors or their logos/mascots.
While the colors make the teams almost impossible to tell apart (yellow and black is incredibly over-represented), even non-sports-fans might be able to spot the Duke Blue Devil, the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame or the Kansas Jayhawk. [Editor's note: Based on a conversation with assistant editor Steven Thomson, this appears to not be the case.]