Tips for filling out your NCAA Tournament bracket

Every year, dedicated college hoops fans enter March Madness believing they have the answer to the Sphinx-like riddle known as the bracket challenge. And every year they're humbled by the self-admitted sports novice who wins the office pool by picking schools in places they visited on spring break.

It's clearly not an exact science.

In fact, it seems like for every person that fills out an NCAA Tournament bracket there's a method for making your selections:

Pick the lower seeds and hope the Selection Committee knew what it was doing.

Go with all upsets and hope a few of them pan out.

Spend hours studying stats and records to come up with a formula that would make Pythagoras's eyes glaze over trying to understand it.

You could always just go with tried and true method of choosing teams with the most adorable mascots.

After all, the odds of picking every game correctly are estimated at 1 in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808. That's probably why Warren Buffett is offering $1 billion to the person who does it.

With that in mind, we've come up with a handful of ways we believe will help you fill out your NCAA Tournament bracket.

Don’t Be A Fan

If you’re a Xavier fan who had your Muskies making a miraculous return trip to the Elite Eight, you know what I’m talking about.

XU made a quick and not unexpected exit from the tournament Tuesday night and anyone who had them advanced past the First Four round probably wants to ball up their bracket and toss it into a trash.

For fans of Cincinnati, Kentucky, Louisville, Dayton, Ohio State and any of the remaining teams in the bracket you need to embrace the following: You’re going to have your heartbroken.

Only one team can win it all so pick with your head while filling out your bracket and hope your team exceeds your expectations.

It's Not Always The Best Team That Gets To Cut Down the Nets

In the movie "Rounders" Matt Damon's character asks, "Why do you think the same five guys make it to the final table at the World Series of Poker every single year? What are they, the luckiest guys in Las Vegas?"

While it's not 100 percent accurate, the quote is applicable to college basketball and the Final Four.

There's a reason why we know the names Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, Kentucky and UCLA. Sure, they're great, top-25 teams every year but they also win championships. Part of the reason they're able to do that is they always seem to earn No. 1 seeds.

But just being one of the best doesn't mean you're going to make it to the "final table."

Much like the general inaccuracy of Damon's comment in "Rounders," it's unfair to assume that getting a top seed means anything more than earning a slightly easier route to the championship game.

In fact, only 40.5 percent of No. 1 seeds have advanced to the Final Four since 1985. During that span, only once since then, 2008, have all four top seeds made it that deep into the tournament.

Most years the Final Four features two top seeds and two lower seeded teams, usually in the 2 to 4 range.

Since 1980, there've been 16 instances where no more than a single No. 1 seed made it to the NCAA semifinals. That's been the case eight times since 2000, including each of the past four years.

Last season's Final Four featured No. 1 Louisville, two 4's (Syracuse and Michigan) and ninth-seeded Wichita State.

There've also been three years where no top seeds made to the Final Four, twice since 2006. The other was in 1980.

That doesn't mean you should go away from the top teams when penciling in your bracket, so his year's No. 1 seeds are Florida, Arizona, Wichita St. and Virginia are still solid choices. Great players and winning records are pretty good indicators that a team knows how to come through in clutch time.

In short: playing it somewhat safe isn't a bad idea, but it's a bad idea to go a little against the grain.

Pencil in Michigan State As A Sweet Sixteen Lock

You’re only promised three things: death, the right to pay taxes and the Spartans making the Sweet 16.

So do it, pick Michigan State.

I know, I know Bearcat loyalists – going with MSU inherently means picking against Cincinnati in the Round of 32.

My response to you: Do you want to win your bracket challenge or not?

Tom Izzo has guided the Spartans to the Sweet Sixteen 11 times since the 1997-1998 season. Let me repeat that to you another way: MSU reaches the Sweet 16 three out of every four years.

He’s also been to six Final Fours, including the National Championship in 2000 and national runner-up in 2009.

During his tenure in East Lansing, Izzo has the third most NCAA Tournament behind only Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams. He's also one of only three coaches to reach three straight Final Fours since 1985 (Krzyzewski and Ben Howland).

Some of his current players may even know what it’s like to be a Final Four team. Over the past four years, the Izzo-led squad has advanced to the Sweet 16 three times (see?) and reached the Final Four once.

It doesn’t hurt that every ESPN analyst and even President Barack Obama is picking MSU to win

Every year, dedicated college hoops fans enter March Madness believing they have the answer to the Sphinx-like riddle known as the bracket challenge. And every year they're humbled by the self-admitted sports novice who wins the office pool by picking schools in places they visited on spring break.

It's clearly not an exact science.

In fact, it seems like for every person that fills out an NCAA Tournament bracket there's a method for making your selections:

Pick the lower seeds and hope the Selection Committee knew what it was doing.

Go with all upsets and hope a few of them pan out.

Spend hours studying stats and records to come up with a formula that would make Pythagoras's eyes glaze over trying to understand it.

You could always just go with tried and true method of choosing teams with the most adorable mascots.

After all, the odds of picking every game correctly are estimated at 1 in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808. That's probably why Warren Buffett is offering $1 billion to the person who does it.

With that in mind, we've come up with a handful of ways we believe will help you fill out your NCAA Tournament bracket.

Don’t Be A Fan

If you’re a Xavier fan who had your Muskies making a miraculous return trip to the Elite Eight, you know what I’m talking about.

XU made a quick and not unexpected exit from the tournament Tuesday night and anyone who had them advanced past the First Four round probably wants to ball up their bracket and toss it into a trash.

For fans of Cincinnati, Kentucky, Louisville, Dayton, Ohio State and any of the remaining teams in the bracket you need to embrace the following: You’re going to have your heartbroken.

Only one team can win it all so pick with your head while filling out your bracket and hope your team exceeds your expectations.

It's Not Always The Best Team That Gets To Cut Down the Nets

In the movie "Rounders" Matt Damon's character asks, "Why do you think the same five guys make it to the final table at the World Series of Poker every single year? What are they, the luckiest guys in Las Vegas?"

While it's not 100 percent accurate, the quote is applicable to college basketball and the Final Four.

There's a reason why we know the names Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, Kentucky and UCLA. Sure, they're great, top-25 teams every year but they also win championships. Part of the reason they're able to do that is they always seem to earn No. 1 seeds.

But just being one of the best doesn't mean you're going to make it to the "final table."

Much like the general inaccuracy of Damon's comment in "Rounders," it's unfair to assume that getting a top seed means anything more than earning a slightly easier route to the championship game.

In fact, only 40.5 percent of No. 1 seeds have advanced to the Final Four since 1985. During that span, only once since then, 2008, have all four top seeds made it that deep into the tournament.

Most years the Final Four features two top seeds and two lower seeded teams, usually in the 2 to 4 range.

Since 1980, there've been 16 instances where no more than a single No. 1 seed made it to the NCAA semifinals. That's been the case eight times since 2000, including each of the past four years.

Last season's Final Four featured No. 1 Louisville, two 4's (Syracuse and Michigan) and ninth-seeded Wichita State.

There've also been three years where no top seeds made to the Final Four, twice since 2006. The other was in 1980.

That doesn't mean you should go away from the top teams when penciling in your bracket, so his year's No. 1 seeds are Florida, Arizona, Wichita St. and Virginia are still solid choices. Great players and winning records are pretty good indicators that a team knows how to come through in clutch time.

In short: playing it somewhat safe isn't a bad idea, but it's a bad idea to go a little against the grain.

Pencil in Michigan State As A Sweet Sixteen Lock

You’re only promised three things: death, the right to pay taxes and the Spartans making the Sweet 16.

So do it, pick Michigan State.

I know, I know Bearcat loyalists – going with MSU inherently means picking against Cincinnati in the Round of 32.

My response to you: Do you want to win your bracket challenge or not?

Tom Izzo has guided the Spartans to the Sweet Sixteen 11 times since the 1997-1998 season. Let me repeat that to you another way: MSU reaches the Sweet 16 three out of every four years.

He’s also been to six Final Fours, including the National Championship in 2000 and national runner-up in 2009.

During his tenure in East Lansing, Izzo has the third most NCAA Tournament behind only Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams. He's also one of only three coaches to reach three straight Final Fours since 1985 (Krzyzewski and Ben Howland).

Some of his current players may even know what it’s like to be a Final Four team. Over the past four years, the Izzo-led squad has advanced to the Sweet 16 three times (see?) and reached the Final Four once.

It doesn’t hurt that every ESPN analyst and even President Barack Obama is picking MSU to win

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