If Gonzaga still had hair like this they'd be a championship team.

So you are trying to fill out your bracket before tomorrow? You didn't watch most of the season and you have no real idea who is any good? You also want some cinderellas for your bracket so you can stand and brag when the season is over right? This is sounding very much like a Vault commercial isn't it?

A few quick bits of advice for you. DO NOT DO ALL THE TYPICAL PICKS. If you do then you will look like everyone else who finishes third every year because they did the Obama thing and took all number 1's throughout. You had better not have Ohio State winning it all at the end of your bracket or you will be like about 30 percent of America and 98 percent of ESPN. Sure the best teams usually win, but why wait an entire year to pick a bracket based on seed? If you pick all of the top seeds and they lose early then you look dumb, but if you pick some sleepers to upset and they don't then you look interesting.

Warning, pull out a bracket before you read this so you truly see what I am talking about. The first thing you have to do before winning a bracket tournament (with education that is) is to look at the bracket. Look at which areas of the bracket are easy and which are tough. The East this year has Ohio State, Kentucky, Syracuse and North Carolina as the top four teams. The Southeast has Pittsburgh, Florida, Wisconsin and BYU. Which one sounds harder to win?

Take a number two and a number three. Just do it. Every year there are some teams that should have been number 1 seeds by talent that get 2's and 3's. Duke was one last year and I gladly rode them to the top. This year anyone who doubts UNC, Notre Dame, UConn and San Diego State is an idiot. I could see any of those teams winning it all at the end, and I have seen every single one on upset alert.

At the same time don't buy into every seed. Pittsburgh, Florida, BYU and Syracuse are all overrated teams that got too much credit at the end of the day. I could see any of these teams losing their 2nd round games.

Also look for potential same-conference upsets. Syracuse and Marquette (big east) could play each other in round two. A favorite like Syracuse does not want that. Same thing with Cincinnati and UConn.

Another thing to look at is the teams that always seem to be a good combination of talent at the start of the tournament. Kentucky, Tennessee, Memphis, Michigan State, and Florida State have Sweet 16 talent potential, but maybe not the bracket to do it in.

Don't fall in love with the Big East, because they are not the SEC of basketball. The Big East is hyped because they have sixteen teams in their conference, and many of them are good. But the fact is that a Big East team hasn't won it all since 2004, and only two years (2003, 2004) has a Big East team won it all in the 2000's. The ACC on the other hand is an "overrated" conference that has five of the last ten titles by three different teams (Duke, UNC, Maryland) , including the last two. Michigan State, Kansas, Florida have the other four by the way. Also, for all of you sleeping on Washington, the Pac-10 has zero since 1995, and not including UCLA zero since 1959!

Did you know that historically the 9 seed is nine percent better at winning than the 8 seed is over time? NEVER be scared to put a nine in the winner circle, especially if you have no idea. You will have them losing in round two anyways! What's even weirder though is that the 8 seed loses more often to a nine, but will upset the 1 seed in the next round almost 12 percent more often than the 9 seed! Another important tip to know is that in round 2, the 3 seed is almost identical in wins to the 6 seed? Also, did you know that statistically a number five seed wins one game a year in 83 % percent of the time?

Finally sleepers. I like to do a few things with sleeper Cinderella teams and that is to first do a bracket where I pick teams on talent alone. Like I said I don't love Florida, BYU or Pittsburgh which all fall in the same bracket (and is the one that many point to as the weakest). So you can have some major fun with that bracket. I don't love Ohio State, or many Big East teams so why not look for early upsets there.

Also if you don't think that there is any chance that Kansas loses to either of their first three rounds (games against a combo of Boston U, UNLV, Illinois, Richmond, Morehead state, Vanderbilt, or Louisville) the there is no reason that you should have Vanderbilt against Louisville in round two. If you see no way that they move past Kansas then why put so much faith in just a few points? I think too many people have brackets that don't think it out a little bit, and that is why they fail. They risk three correct picks on their brackets to lead them to an obvious (in your head) loss to Kansas, when they could take the sleeper teams, look like a genius, and perhaps get a three point swing that only you took. It is a high risk, high reward situation but it could make you look like a pro.

What's the downside to my strategy? Well if you take too many sleepers and they lose then you can be out early. But the way I see it, everyone is going to have Ohio State and Kansas/Pittsburgh in the championship game this year, so it will be the person with the best first two rounds who wins anyways. The key things is to be interesting but not stupid. NEVER pick a 14, 15 or 16 seed to win a game. As an Iowa native I know what can happen when a team like Northwestern State does this:



but the odds are so low that you are dumb to do it. As you will see in my bracket I have Syracuse getting upset in round 2 so why wouldn't I do it according to my Kansas comparison? Because the odds are so low for it to happen. A 4 seed falls almost as often as a 3 seed, but I think that there are often times too many hot headed teams (like Iowa that year) that were never built to truly compete. In general I never even like to kill a 4 seed in the first round unless I have little faith of them going that far.

Here are my personal picks for success:

**Correct Answers will be Put it Green while Wrong Will Be In RED**

(SO FAR 32- 16 with two elite 8 gone)

EAST

Ohio State
(never pick a 16,15,14)
George Mason (favored by vegas and many are taking Nova off name)
West Virginia (I liked UAB but I don't love Clemson)
Kentucky (Princeton could be a tough matchup)
Marquette (Gut feeling and I like their round two odds against...)
Syracuse (never pick a 16,15,14)
Washington (give the Pac 10 a least one tourney win)
UNC (never pick a 16,15,14)

Ohio State over George Mason (just don't see it)
Kentucky over West Virginia (Kentucky's first rotation is possibly the best in the country)
Marquette over Syracuse (Marquette down! Marquette won in their only conference game against Syracuse)
UNC over Washington (I don't buy into UNC being down after losing to Duke. And the Pac 10 got their 1 win already)

Kentucky over Ohio State (I don't have Ohio State in the final 4 so why not take a chance on a high talent team)
UNC over Marquette ( Marquette isn't THAT good)

UNC over Kentucky (I love this game, but think that UNC has the talent to take Kentucky in a close matchup)

WEST

Duke over Hampton
Tennessee over Michigan (Tennessee always has potential to play like the best team in college. Michigan doesn't)
Memphis over Arizona (Sorry Arizona but I just don't like ya this year) (Refs were too tired for overtime)
Oakland over Texas (Sorry horns, but I see you lose here or make it to the sweet 16) (Oakland COULD have won)
Cincinnati over Missouri (I just don't love the Mizzou hype)
UConn over Bucknell
Penn State over Temple (I hate to hate on Temple, but more Penn State fans in Philly than Temple fans) (Buzzer)
SD State over No. Colorado (SD State has lots of talent but should be a 5th seed sleeper)

Duke over Tennessee (I hate this matchup for Duke though)
Memphis over Oakland (12 seeds are 7-1 against 13 seeds... because that matters)
UConn over Cinci (no good reason)
SD State over Penn State (I wonder if 65 year old SD St. coach Steve Fisher will be a hot commodity this offseason)

Duke over Memphis (Another tough Duke matchup, even if it is Texas or Oakland)
SD State over UConn (I don't love this pick, but will live with it)

Duke over SD State (Another tough Duke matchup whether it is Uconn or SD State)

Southwest

Kansas over Boston
UNLV over Illinois (UNLV ALWAYS screws me when I pick them)
Richmond over Vanderbilt (Richmond has won as a 15,14,13,12 before. I also don't love Vandy)
Morehead St. over Louisville (Because I think Kansas would crush any of these teams... read above if you haven't)
Georgetown over VCU (I don't love this matchup either way but like GT in the tourney) (REALLY hyped GT too much)
Purdue over St. Peters (Purdue isn't great but should walk through easily)
FSU over TAMU (FSU is VERY Talented. They could be a final 4 team)
Notre Dame over Akron

Kansas over UNLV (UNLV was a former annual sleeper for me...  'former' for a reason)
Richmond over Morehead State (remember that useless 12 over 13 stat?)
Georgetown over Purdue (Purdue will beat St Peters by 36 points and will be overly cocky)
Notre Dame over FSU (Don't love it. ND has the looks, while FSU could easily win) (Should've gone with gut)

Kansas over Richmond (The Spiders are good, but Rock Chalk Jayhawk this round)
Georgetown over Notre Dame (No good reason. Wish there was one but GT could go out in any round)

Kansas over Georgetown (Let's not get carried away with Georgetown love on this site)

Southwest

Pitts over whoever
Old Dominion over Butler (Butler was good in 2010 but Old Dominion could go to the Final 4 in this bracket)(Buzzer)
Kansas State over Utah State (BYU likely gets the top Utah recruits)
Belmont over Wisconsin (I hate this matchup for Belmont) ( I hated this match up but thought they'd be E8 if won)
St Johns over Gonzaga (Gonzaga would win if they had Adam Morrison's hair to help them) (bad pick)
BYU over Wofford
Mich State over UCLA --> (UCLA looked good early. Can beat overrated Florida)
Florida over UCSB (Nobody likes Gouchos)

Pitts over Old Dominion (very close game) (great game. Weird ending)
Belmont over Kansas St (Best Bruins in the tourney)
BYU over St Johns (Everyone's sleeper is St Johns. Have them losing early)
Michigan State over Florida (Florida is a 5 seed in tournament talent. So is Michigan State) (Florida is a true 5 seed)

Belmont over Pittsburgh (I threw darts at a dartboard and hit Belmont as my Cinderella)
BYU over Michigan State (I don't love it but BYU is either a 1st round and done or a final 4 team.)

BYU over Belmont (too much of a religious battle for Belmont to handle)

FINAL 4

When I look at my final four I am almost disappointed in myself. I have two teams that some thing could lose in the first round (UNC and BYU), a team that almost always loses early to bad teams (Kansas), last year's champ that won me money but that everyone will be picking (Duke) and not a single Cinderella. That's because while everyone wants to see a 6 seed make it that far, the fact is that good teams win the tournament.

UNC v Duke

Yet another tough matchup for Duke. They really got shafted by being a number one seed (the Southwest region is way too easy to win). I have Duke beating Memphis, Tennesssee, UConn or SD State and then UNC! I like Duke here on a neutral court, but if these two teams actually face off I like the winner to get the gold.

Duke wins

Kansas v BYU

I really do hate BYU here, but when you have so little faith in Pittsburgh who always loses early, Florida which is really a 5 seed, Wisconsin which is eh, Kansas State which is eh, and a bunch of cinderellas then you have to reach here. We will give Jimmer a big shine of happiness as the team becomes a feel good story even after their dumb honor code was broken. With that said, I like Kansas this year. They have a fairly easy bracket, and I think that they pull matchups that they can win. Watch out for Florida State though if they beat Notre Dame.

Kansas over BYU

CHAMPIONSHIP

Tough matchups for Duke will get them tired and the Kansas Jayhawks who will coast to the championship will smoke Duke right? Rock Chalk Jayhawk right? Borack Hussein Obama {{{who was born in Hawaii but might have grown up in Kenya who's grandma was from Kansas who says he is an Illinois man who somehow has no proof of a birth certificate but rumor is that it is from Connecticut}}}'s pick to win it all right???? (sorry but someone had to say it in regards to him picking basketball. I have no problem with him as a person, just him as a sports analyst in terms of picking as a homer for 1/2 the country)

WRONG! I really like Duke this year. They were the "elite" team to start the year and really only fell off after their top-2 pick in the next draft got hurt. Well he is back and can bring some power even if he plays only 15 minutes a game. I love Duke this year. Maybe it is because they won it last year when I actually picked them. Maybe it is that they do best when few are that high on them. Maybe it is that they have one of the best teams in basketball. Maybe it is that they have the best coach in basketball. Maybe it is that everyone hates them because they are good. Who knows, but I like Duke this year.