The Comprehensive NCAA Tournament Bracket Survival Guide

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The Comprehensive NCAA Tournament Bracket Survival Guide
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Shortly after the NCAA tournament bracket was released, the Internet was flooded with just how difficult picking a completely correct bracket would be. The odds of getting every game right is reportedly 9,223,372,036,854,775,808:1 (something north of 9.2 quintillion combinations.) I'm no math wizard, but I thought the result was simply calculating 63 factorial, putting the total number of possible brackets somewhere around 1.983 x 10^87

Whatever the math, there are certainly a lot of bracket options. How do you know which will win your pool? The truth is, you don't, so just have fun.

Before we get too far into this, if you clicked on this article to see what an expert thinks about the 2012 NCAA tournament bracket to help you fill out your own bracket, this isn't that.

Moreover, if you need an expert to help you pick your bracket because you haven't been paying as much attention to college basketball as you did when you were younger and, perhaps, didn't have two kids and a wife who constantly hog the TV when you're trying to watch the conference tournaments to get a quick primer on who's hot going into the NCAAs…join the freaking club.

The real truth about the bracket is that the experts are guessing just as much as you and I are. Seth Davis of CBS Sports, the chap lucky enough to have his smiling face on the tournament selection show set year after year, picked two No. 14 seeds to upset No. 3 seeds in the tourney. When called out for it later on CBS's Hardcore Brackets show on TruTV, Davis quipped, "what, it's just television. Someone's got to say something."

Folks, that is picking brackets in a nutshell. Someone's got to say something.

That "something" doesn't even have to be right, because the fun of the NCAA tournament—the reason it's called March Madness—is in the tournament's ability to relegate smart, learned analysts into the bracket-busted populace like me and you with one clang off an unfriendly rim.

I'm not trying to suggest that analysts aren't extremely knowledgeable when filling out their bracket—ESPN's Doug Gottlieb gave a detailed explanation on Sunday night why he thinks No. 13 seed Montana will beat No. 4 seed Wisconsin that nearly has me convinced. I'm more trying to point out that that once the ball is tossed, all bracket bets are out of our hands.

It's the tournament the fans love, not just the bracket. The bracket is a means to an end. Please remember that.

With that caveat, we offer a list of simple rules for filling out your NCAA tournament bracket—a March Madness survival guide of sorts.

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