NCAA Brackets 2014: Idiot's Guide to Making Multiple March Madness Selections
Congratulations on your decision to print out 27 copies of the 2014 NCAA tournament bracket!
If you're looking for opening-weekend sleepers or dark horses to win it all, this is not the article for you. You can get that stuff anywhere.
But if you need some nondescript advice on filling out all of those brackets, you've come to the right place.
We've got tips, strategies and guidelines that will help you keep your friends, your sanity and your worldly possessions through the end of the NCAA tournament.
Just don't let anyone talk down to you for filling out multiple brackets.
People will throw around words like integrity and tradition to try to convince you that the only true way to fill out a bracket is to only fill out one. But while they are ripping, crumpling, burning and wiping their tears with their "holier than thou" bracket, you'll be using your winnings to buy something with which they can drown their sorrows.
Rule No. 1: You Do Not Talk About Filling out Multiple Brackets
Not everyone shares your view on filling out multiple brackets, and the ones who do are too busy filling out their own to listen to you blab on about whatever method you're using on your 14th bracket.
I'm preaching to both the choir and myself on this one. I fill out a lot of brackets in the endless quest to discover the secret formula to bracket-picking nirvana.
But you can only have one bracket that's truly yours. Decide which one that is before the tournament begins, and then don't even mention the other brackets again. Even if one of your "secondary brackets" is doing incredibly well, keep your mouth shut.
If you're going to be in multiple pools, please do fill out a bunch of different brackets. It's a free country. But no one is interested in any statements that begin with "In one of my brackets."
Before the 2011 NCAA tournament, Dan Bernstein of CBS Chicago wrote, "Here’s the deal: anyone filling out anything more than one set of predicted outcomes forfeits the right to claim any kind of victory."
Besides, why would you want to share your secret method?
In addition to avoiding conflict with everyone you know, committing yourself to just one bracket keeps you from needing to flip through a bunch of pages or tabs during every game to figure out for which team you should be rooting.
Rule No. 2: Really Mix It Up
Every year, there's someone with two entries near the top of the nationwide leaderboard, because that person submitted essentially the exact same bracket twice, with very minor alterations.
Your goal is not to have the 10 best brackets in the country. If you're filling out N brackets, you're counting on at least N-2 of them to be in the garbage can by the start of the second weekend of the tournament.
Pick a couple of crazy upsets in each bracket, but don't pick the same crazy upsets in multiple brackets.
Case in point from last year: depending on how many brackets you filled out, you should have had Florida Gulf Coast winning at least one game in one of them—but there's no way you should have picked that game in multiple brackets unless you were actually on the team.
Make sure you're diversifying in the later rounds, too. If you have Kansas in the Final Four in half of your brackets, you run the risk of that half being worthless if the Jayhawks get bumped early.
Now, I'm not suggesting you have a different representative in the Final Four in each region in each of your brackets, but mix it up among the top seeds. Even if you restrict yourself to only having teams seeded No. 4 or better in the Final Four, that still leaves you with 256 possible combinations.
Explore the space.
Rule No. 3: Use a Different Strategy on Each Bracket
The strategies that you choose are entirely up to you, but start each bracket from scratch and take a different approach each time.
I would suggest filling out brackets based on different team-based statistics—particularly of the defensive variety—but if you have a ton of brackets to fill out, have some fun with random processes.
Need some help coming up with crazy strategies? Here are a few suggestions, along with the approximate level of difficulty and time commitment.
Coin Flip: Very quick and simple.
The higher-seeded team is heads and the lower-seeded team is tails. Or do the inverse. I don't care. Flip a coin 63 times and you've got your bracket.
And yes, I totally chose the photo for this slide based on the fact that Cincinnati received the No. 1 seed in the Big East tournament ahead of Louisville because of a coin flip. Also, easy with the hands there, Russ. That's a foul any year in any sport.
Weighted Coin Flip: Still simple, but takes a long time.
Just like the coin flip bracket, but instead of flipping a coin once for each game, you keep flipping until you get a number equal to the team's seed. For example, in a No. 5 vs. No. 12 matchup, you flip until you either get five heads or 12 tails. You'd think this one would end up being all favorites, but coins have a mind of their own.
I do this bracket every year, and I almost always end up with a No. 10 or No. 11 seed in the Elite Eight.
Mascot Fight: As complicated as you want to make it.
What in the world is a Chanticleer, and how would it do in a fight to the death? Is a Blue Devil more or less powerful than your average demonic being? What happens when a Wildcat duels a Wildcat? Depending on your imagination, this bracket could take an entire day to fill out. Unfortunately, dedicating more time to it doesn't make it any more accurate.
Geography Bee: Mildly time-intensive, but worth it.
Pick the team playing closest to home in each game. You're probably going to end up taking all of the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 seeds to the Sweet 16 with this one, but you'll get a good number of upsets in the other games. And frankly, if you just picked those top seeds to the Sweet 16 without even thinking about it, you're probably going to get nine out of the 12 right, anyway.
The Lottery System: A complete waste of a lot of time.
If you know how to use the Rand function in Excel, this one isn't so bad. But the proposed method is to write each No. 1 seed's name on 16 slips of paper, each No. 2 seed's name on 15 slips of paper, and so on and so forth until you have 544 little pieces of eventual garbage to place into a hat. As you pull a team's name out of the hat, advance that team as far in the tournament as possible.
With any luck, you'll go through that whole process, immediately pull a No. 14 seed out of the hat, and throw the hat across the room creating a confetti snowstorm.
Rule No. 4: Make Sure Each Meaningful Bracket Makes Sense
Fun as some of the "strategies" on the previous slide may sound, you're not submitting a coin flip bracket into any pools. If you're that dedicated to just giving away money, my pockets could always withstand a little more weight.
In your serious endeavors at winning a pool, take risks, but don't be an idiot.
Having one No. 12 or No. 13 seed in the Sweet 16 is smart. Only twice in the past 13 years has there not been at least one No. 12 or No. 13 seed in the Sweet 16.
Having a double-digit seed in the Elite Eight is gutsy, but sometimes fortune favors the bold. George Mason (2006, No. 11 seed), Davidson (2008, No. 10 seed) and VCU (2011, No. 11 seed) are the only double-digit seeds to have advanced past the Sweet 16 since 2002, but it has happened.
Anything more than that is just suicidal.
Florida Gulf Coast did something no other No. 15 seed has ever done by winning two games, so don't waste your time (and money) trying to find this year's Dunk City.
Rule No. 5: Don't Forget to Enjoy the Madness
No matter how many brackets you fill out, there's still a pretty good chance you're going to lose every pool you enter.
Don't let that ruin the fun.
If you have an entire month's worth of rent spread out across 40 different pools, you're welcome to both stress out and seek out counseling. But most of you are probably only risking five bucks or bragging rights in each pool.
Try to keep that in mind and enjoy the ride.
Quite a few people have posted way-too-long rationalizations for why they'll never fill out a bracket again, arguing that they're able to enjoy the games more when there's nothing at stake. On the flip side of that coin, some feel they need to be betting on games to actually have something worth rooting for.
Both are a bit extremist, but there's a finite number of brackets—a different number for different people—that you can fill out and track before all of your March Madness joy gets sucked dry.
Have fun with your brackets, but do make time to actually watch some of the games you dedicated so much time and energy to picking.
The Madness only comes around once a year, and it'll be gone before you know it.
Kerry Miller covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @kerrancejames.
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