Picking mascots is one way to fill out a bracket. Being informed sounds logical. Granted, maybe not as fun.
But you don't enter an office pool for fun. You enter it for bragging rights, and bragging rights are pretty sweet when a little green comes along with it. (Not that we would encourage gambl...ahem...those sorts of things.)
What you need to know is which teams are simply unworthy of your trust or all hype and no substance.
If you're searching for that knowledge, this is the place to get the tips that will save you from living in the bracket basement.
All advanced stats in this piece come from KenPom.com.
Yes, it sounds crazy to bet against Brad Stevens. He defies odds. He wins games with his mind. He is the most interesting man on the planet. And he doesn't always make the NCAA tournament, but when he does, he goes to the championship game.
This is all true. Well, most of it. He may not be all that interesting to anyone other than number or hoop nerds.
But stay away from the Bulldogs this year. Mostly, because they cannot score. Butler had the ninth most-efficient offense in the Atlantic-10.
Butler also has not been overly impressive the last few months. Before knocking off La Salle in the A-10 quarterfinals, the Bulldogs' last win against a tourney team was Jan. 26 against Temple at Hinkle Fieldhouse. They did not win a road game against a tourney team all year.
If you cannot fathom picking against Stevens in the early rounds, don't take Butler past the Sweet 16.
It as though the committee knew the Jim Larranaga story is one that is just too much fun to tell.
Larranaga is a great interview—read Sports Illustrated's recent piece for proof—and it'll be fun remembering George Mason's 2006 run while Miami is cruising through the bracket.
And until the Elite Eight, it should be a cruise.
Illinois is the most likely early threat, as that is a team that has beat Indiana and Gonzaga. The Illini depend almost exclusively on the three, but the 'Canes just survived 12 threes from North Carolina in the ACC championship. Tough to see them slipping up there.
Marquette or Butler would likely await in the Sweet 16, and neither of those teams appears talented enough to knock off Miami.
That will hopefully give us a Regional final of Indiana-Miami, and that would be the marquee game of the Elite Eight.
It would be easy to say that the Orange are back after making it to the Big East final. And heck, Louisville probably wasn't losing to anyone on Saturday night.
This has less to do with what has happened in the last week and more to do with history.
The Orange have not made a Final Four since they won the title in 2003. Last season was the first since then that they've made it past the Sweet 16 since then.
One reason Jim Boeheim's teams have not been successful in the tourney is they've lacked a low-post threat. Rakeem Christmas is this team's leading scorer in the post at 5.3 points per game.
In NCAA tourney games that become half-court contests, it's nice to be able to throw the ball in the post. Syracuse has to depend too much on its guards, and that's just not the best way to be consistent.
It's also hard to ignore that Boeheim's bunch went 5-6 in their final 11 regular-season games.
Last year, it happened twice—a 15 over a two.
That was historical. It was really cool to witness. And it's probably not going to happen again anytime soon.
The last time before 2012 was when Hampton beat Iowa State in 2001, and it had only occurred four times before 2012.
Duke was playing without Ryan Kelly—we know how that went this year—and Missouri was not a great defensive team.
The Tigers also were unlucky. Norfolk State was a 31.5 percent three-point shooting team last season and made 10 of 19 against Mizzou.
Anything could happen, but you're better off betting on history.
Louisville did not get any favors as the top overall seed.
Before the bracket was announced, no college basketball expert would have blinked twice if Louisville, Duke, Michigan State, Saint Louis or Oklahoma State had made the Final Four.
By Ken Pomeroy's rankings, this region is stacked. Here are the top seven teams in the Midwest, with their Pomeroy rank and how that compares to teams that share their seed:
2. Louisville (best No. 1)
6. Duke 6 (best No. 2)
10. Michigan State (second-best No. 3)
16. Saint Louis (third-best No. 4)
20. Oklahoma State (second-best 5)
15. Creighton (best No. 7 seed by 11 spots)
18. Missouri (best No. 9)
24. Colorado State (second-best No. 8)
When in doubt, you should probably go with Louisville. And if you don't trust the Russ Smith-led Cardinals, Saint Louis is a good pick. The Billikens have beat VCU twice, and Shaka Smart's "Havoc" style is the closest clone in the country to Louisville's press.
The RPI says that New Mexico is the second-best team in the country. The RPI must not like offense.
That's probably not a fair assessment of the Lobos, because they are a really good team. Feel free to throw around "great" when talking about them defensively.
New Mexico's issue is interior scoring. The Lobos make only 46.2 percent of their twos, which ranks 227th in the nation.
They do have some shooters who are capable of heating up. Kendall Williams was Wasabi hot at Colorado State when he went off for 45 points. In the seven games since, Williams has scored in double figures twice.
That sort of offense just doesn't seem trustworthy enough for a long run, and New Mexico will likely go up against another great defensive team, Ohio State, in the Sweet 16.
Tough to see the Lobos knocking off the Buckeyes, who showed in the Big Ten championship that they can win ugly if that's what it takes.
These are two No. 6 seeds that likely will not survive for long.
The Bruins are without second-leading scorer Jordan Adams, and even with Adams, they might have been an underdog.
Same goes for Memphis, which will be playing at full strength. Saint Mary's, the favorite to play Memphis, was as dominant in the WCC as Memphis was in Conference USA. The Gaels only had to deal with Gonzaga, and Memphis did not have anything close to the equivalent.
Saint Mary's has not lost to a team not named Gonzaga since Dec. 23. And according to Ken Pomeroy, both Saint Mary's and Minnesota should be favorites. SMC is a ranked 24th by Pomeroy compared to 39th for Memphis, and Minnesota is 24th compared to 44th for UCLA.
Even if you're convinced UCLA and Memphis can win those games, be careful having either team advance far.
Gonzaga didn't play anyone. Blah blah blah blah.
That's all noise. The Zags went 5-0 against the Big 12. They fared as well as anyone in the country against legitimate competition.
If you want to know Gonzaga's weakness, it's that Mark Few's team could certainly lose to a team with a star guard. Illinois beat Gonzaga with Brandon Paul going off for 35 points. Also know that Gonzaga's defense is the best Few has ever coached.
The Zags are good. Really good. Kelly Olynyk is more than a dude with long hair; he's the best scorer from the block in the country. Elias Harris is really tough to match up against inside or out. They have guys who can shoot the three (Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell) and they can bring another big man off the bench (Sam Dower) who would start for at least 90 percent of the teams in the country.
And if you need even more proof, I took a look at what a champion looks like this week. Gonzaga passed with flying colors.
Should you pick the Zags to win the title? I'm not going to tell you that. But the earliest I would pick against them is the Elite Eight. Maybe the Sweet 16 if you're convinced Wisconsin could go on a run.