Ready, set, pick ... your NCAA March Madness bracket
Wednesday, March 19, 2008 | 10:35 PM ET
Last week I set aside some rules for improving your chances of competing in your NCAA March Madness pool. Now I'm actually going to put it into practice using the actual brackets. So if these rules truly don't work, I'll know to dump them next year.
Rule No. 1: Your heart is an idiot. My heart tells me to never, never go with North Carolina, partly because I'm not a fan of the school's coach, Roy Williams, but also because I don't like the team. On the other hand, my heart is really pushing for UCLA. The two teams are considered the favourites, but my head tells me UCLA's injury troubles may be their undoing. I'm going to go with Carolina to win it all.
Rule No. 2: When in doubt, go with the seedings. My final four right now is equally conservative: joining North Carolina and UCLA are No. 2 seeds Georgetown and Texas. It sounds boring, but I suspect it will be effective.
Rule No. 3: The larger your pool, the more upsets you'll have to pick. Here's where things get tricky. Since I've risked very little in the late rounds, I'm going to have to be more creative with my early-round upsets in order to truly differientiate from the other poolies. Rules No. 4 and 5 are going to guide those picks.
Rule No. 4: The regular season is meaningless. As I said, teams like Wisconsin, Xavier and Notre Dame were nowhere to be seen in the pre-season Top 25, which is a reasonable barometer of their talent, while teams like Oregon, Kentucky and Kansas State are better than their seedings. That's why I'm picking Kansas State (an 11-seed) to beat USC and then Wisconsin to advance to the Sweet 16, and why I'm picking Oregon (a No. 9 seed) to upend Mississippi St. and No. 1 seed Memphis before finally losing to Pitt. Although I can't fathom Xavier losing to Georgia (see next rule), I'm thinking they'll bow out to Purdue in the next round. As for Notre Dame, I have them going down to George Mason in round one.
Rule No. 5: The conference tournaments are even more meaningless. Against all odds, Georgia won their conference and is now a sexy pick to upset Xavier, but I think, having reached that early high, they are more likely to flame out. And while Pitt won the big east over Georgetown and Kansas bested Texas, you're likely to go further picking the latter duo. Clemson surprised the experts by making it to the ACC final before losing to North Carolina, but I've also got them going down in the first round, to No. 12 seed Villanova.
Rule No. 6: Go with the best players. My model suggests the top 10 in the upcoming draft willl be littered with players from the final four. North Carolina has good players, but none are likely to be lottery-bound this year. Still, my final four has more than enough potential prospects in Roy Hibbert (Georgetown) and Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love (UCLA). And since likely No. 1 overall pick Michael Beasley plays for Kansas State, I'm showing that team some extra love by advancing them to the Sweet 16.
Rule No. 7: Don't be afraid to break the rules. My heart tells me troubled Indiana has one last good game in them, and they'll beat Arkansas and push Carolina, and for now, I'm listening to it. Likewise, I'm picking George Mason to win not one round but two, just out of sentimentality.
Sweet 16: UNC, G. Mason, Louisville, Tennesee, Kansas, Villanova, Kansas St., Georgetown, UCLA, UConn, Purdue, Duke, Oregon, Pitt, Marquette, Texas
Elite Eight: UNC, Tennesee, Kansas, Georgetown, UCLA, Duke, Pitt, Texas
Final Four: UNC, Georgetown, UCLA, Texas
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About the Author
Paul Jay has been writing about basketball for seven years, working as a basketball columnist for Rogers Sportsnet and writing for CBC Sports, Raptors Insider, Dose and appearing on air with Sportsnet and Raptors TV. In his 12 years in journalism, Paul has written features for some of the best publications in the country, including the Globe and Mail, the Ottawa Citizen, Saturday Night, Canadian Lawyer and This magazine. He first joined CBC.ca during the 2004 Athens Olympics and currently writes online for CBCNews.ca as a technology and science writer.
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