Each week, The Herald-Whig sports staff will debate a pertinent topic. Here is this week's question:
"What is the best approach to filling out an NCAA Tournament bracket?"
Matt Schuckman, Sports Editor
There are two rules I follow when I fill out my bracket.
One, stick to your instincts.
Two, never write "Kansas" on any line.
The first rule works universally and can apply to anyone with any rooting interest. It's not fail-safe, but if you stick to what you know and try not to read too much into the breakdowns and the analysis of each matchup, you'll have a healthy chance of getting games correct.
The second fulfills my disdain for shoe-wearing birds. Although the University of Missouri is no longer in the Big 12 Conference, old rivalries never fade. My unwillingness to write "Kansas" on any line has cost me in some bracket challenges, but sometimes you have to make a stand for what is right and what is good.
The best piece of advice I ever received came from a friend and colleague when I worked in Columbia, Mo. The late Kent Heitholt simply said, "Pick the winners." I can still hear his hearty laugh each time he'd say that.
There is a nugget of truth in his jovial answer. Don't go crazy trying to find Cinderella. Don't think every bracket will be filled with upsets. Undoubtedly, there will be some, but if you stick to choosing mostly teams with a higher seed, you'll do fairly well.
Playing along with the NCAA Tournament and trying to predict which teams will reach the Final Four is part of the lure of March Madness. It's enticing. It's engaging. It's fun.
Keep it that way.
And find a way to get out of work Thursday so you can watch basketball all day long and find out if your strategy works. Mine will if there is another Bucknell out there to dazzle us all.
Blake Toppmeyer, Sports Writer
Don't get too cute when filling out your tournament brackets.
It's fun to be the person who can say, "Yeah, I picked Norfolk State to beat Missouri." What's more fun that that, however, is being able to say you won your office bracket pool. And picking upsets can be tricky business.
Thus, I've found that it's best to try to pick a few early upsets that catch your eye, but primarily try to stick with the better-seeded teams. (Games between the Nos. 8 and 9 seeds are an exception. Pick as many No. 9 seeds as you want. Those aren't true upsets.)
Generally, pools are weighted with more points toward the back end of the tournament. So instead of stressing about the first round or two, put your most research into your Final Four. Getting the Final Four right or close to right this year could be a real challenge because there are no dominant teams in college basketball, and there are about 15 teams that have a realistic shot of reaching the Final Four. So if you get all four or even three right this year, I'd bet there's a good chance you could walk away the winner.
Then again, I've only won a bracket pool once, so my approach might not be much better than someone who fills out a bracket based off of team's mascots and colors. Whatever your approach is, the most important thing is to have fun with it. It's a magical time of year.
Josh Rizzo, Sports Writer
First thing is you have to put aside all biases. I can't stand West Virginia, UConn or Syracuse, but I've picked them all to go to the Final Four at some point or another.
Next thing is don't pull our your hair trying to figure out who the Cinderella story is going to be. Yes, someone will get hot and go to the Sweet 16, but if it were easy to see, it wouldn't be much of a sleeper.
Don't be afraid of the mid-majors. Gonzaga, Butler and Virginia Commonwealth are all good programs.
Don't pick schools because of mascots or colors.
Ignore the RPI, if you can't calculate it, how do you really know its useful?
Only fill out one bracket. This season in particular, I think there will be alot of upsets and one team that reaches the final four with a four seed or lower.
It should be a wild ride, glad I will get to enjoy it.
Josh Houchins, WGEM SportsCenter Host
Well, the one way NOT to do it is by asking your mom to come on the radio and pick a region. I believe she liked Colorado last year because, yes, "She vacationed there one time." Solid thinking, but most likely not the way to win your office pool.
If you want to be safe, go chalk (that means top seeds for those that don't know). If you want to be bold, make at least half your picks in the Sweet 16 be of the lower seed variety.
For me, it's all about making a pick and never looking back. Don't second guess a pick. The first team you feel will win, is the team you should pick. Turn that bracket in with your head held high.
Then when you finish in dead-last place, just blame it on taking advice from Matt Schuckman, Blake Toppmeyer, and Josh Rizzo in Sunday's Herald-Whig!