Make your picks at your own risk

Posted on March 14, 2001

The best way to pick your bracket is to not listen to anyone.

No sportscasters, no sports writers, no cowboys. You shouldn't listen to anyone. You have the brackets in front of you; why can't you make your own decisions?

I will give you my picks, but I definitely won't tell you they are right. I did have a streak of picking the winner like five years in a row, and I did pick last year's, but my brackets have been sad. In 1990, when UNLV beat Duke for the national title, I picked like 53 out of 63 games correctly. I figure that's going to be hard to repeat.

So instead of telling you who to pick, I'm going to give you a few simple steps on how to pick. If you lose, don't sue me because I won't have any money to split with you. If you win something big, a three-piece chicken dinner from Long John Silver's sounds good. All right, here are the steps:

1. DON'T PICK ALL THE FAVORITES: Occasionally, only No. 1 and 2 seeds make the Final Four, but that doesn't happen every year. During the last five years, 10 No. 1 seeds have made it to the Final Four. If you're confident about two or three No. 1 seeds, go for it, but you also need to find at least one 2-4 seed or even a little lower. The average Final Four seed during the past five years has been 2.8, with two No. 8 seeds bringing up the total. There have been two 5s, three 4s, two 3s and a 2 during the same period. I'm going with those averages by picking three 2s and a 3 this time around.

2. PICK AT LEAST ONE RIDICULOUS TEAM TO MAKE THE ELITE EIGHT: Last year, two of those ridiculous teams -- Wisconsin and North Carolina -- made it to the Final Four, and two other. But usually, teams seeded that low get knocked out just before the Final Four. The average seed of a team making the Final Eight is 3.4. Remember, if all 1s and 2s made it there, that would be 1.5. In the last five years, 11 teams seeded 5 or lower have made it to the regional finals. My team is Virginia, a 5 seed in the South, to upset Michigan State.

3. THERE WILL BE AT LEAST TWO MAJOR UPSETS IN THE FIRST ROUND: Don't count on anything like last year, when there were three modest first-round upsets -- one 11 and two 10s were winners. In 1999, there were four upsets of teams seeded 5 or higher, and during the three years before, three teams seeded at least that high went down. I think last year's zero was a fluke. I'm going with Georgia State and Utah State as major-upset teams.

4. NATIONAL CHAMPIONS ARE HOT: I'm not saying you should pick a team that won its conference championship, because those teams don't always win the title. What I am saying is I wouldn't pick a team with more than two losses since February. That counts out Duke, North Carolina and Maryland. But because they've played each other 54 times in the past four weeks, let's keep them in. Maryland has the advantage winning six of its past seven, with a narrow defeat to Duke in the ACC semifinals.

If you are unhappy with these rules, here is a little more advice:

1. LET LUCK SELECT THE WINNERS: I have a game at home that lets you play an entire tournament with six dice. You roll for the teams for two halves, and based on the seed, you get so many extra points per half. I think it's 8 pts. for the 1-16 game and 1 pt. for the 8-9 game. Of course, that doesn't take into account anything but the seedings, but it might be best not to think too much about it.

2. LOOK AT WHAT OTHERS ARE PICKING, THEN PICK THE OPPOSITE IF THEY CAN'T GIVE YOU A GOOD REASON: A lot of people say things like, "You know, I really think Xavier can beat Notre Dame because the Irish have troubles with teams that start with 'x.' " What on earth is that supposed to mean? I'd take more stock in whether or not a team is missing a player, and whether or not the team is trying to win it for that missing player or if the loss is too great.

3. GET HELP FROM THE C-USA TOURNAMENT CHALLENGE WINNER: Just for kicks, I had my own C-USA Challenge, just so we could pick a Denny Crum-led team one last time. My sister's friend, Gary Yeisley, won the tournament, so he must be good at picking the teams this year, right? Read what he has to say here.

4. JUST HURRY AND FILL OUT YOUR BRACKET!: Here's where I reveal my Final Four, in case you haven't picked yours yet: Arizona, Iowa State, North Carolina and Boston College. I have Arizona beating Iowa State for the championship. Yeah, it probably won't happen, but I had to pick someone. Now you have enough info to make your selections as well.