Now that March Madness is finally here, everyone around the country is scrambling to fill out their 2010 NCAA brackets.
Thousands of people will start filling out their brackets, trying to determine which team will win the national championship this year.
For some fans, filling out their bracket is little more than a guessing game from familiar school names. They enter without a clear focus or specific strategy and with almost no knowledge of what has transpired in college basketball this season.
For others, filling out the bracket is a science full of complex equations and statistical analysis. After the tournament selections are announced, they spend hours upon hours crunching numbers to determine which team has the best odds of winning.
No matter how you approach your bracket, there are a few very important things to consider.
Whether you're a fan with little to no knowledge about college basketball, or whether you're betting in an office pool for the rights to a casual day, or whether your kid's college tuition is on the line in Vegas, there are things everyone should avoiding when filling out an NCAA tournament bracket this year.
Some mistakes are well known, and most are wise to avoid. Some mistakes are not so obvious.
Hence, a list of 10 mistakes to avoid when filling out this year's NCAA bracket.
One of the most consistent yet unexplainable trends in NCAA tournaments over the years is that there is almost always one No. 12 seed beating a No. 5 seed. It sounds odd, but it's actually more common than most people imagine.
Since the tournament expanded to 64 teams, the No. 12 seed has defeated the No. 5 seed 34 percent of the time. This year's matchups look as promising for an upset as ever.
No. 5 Michigan State vs No. 12 New Mexico St.
No. 5 Butler vs No. 12 UTEP
No. 5 Texas A&M vs No. 12 Utah St.
No. 5 Temple vs. No. 12 Cornell
Look for UTEP or Cornell to continue that trend this year.
It's a common mistake to look at the brackets and immediately think the No. 1 seeds are the best chance to make it to the Final Four. Thousands of people take the easy way out, thinking it is their best chance at winning in the long run.
They might be right, but don't forget that rarely do all four No. 1 seeds make it to the Final Four.
In fact, it has almost never happened—only once, in 2008, when Kansas, North Carolina, Memphis, and UCLA all made it to the Final Four.
Avoid the temptation.
It's hard to believe, but it's true.
Despite many Cinderella stories over the years, and the four instances of a No. 15 seed defeating a No. 2 seed, no No. 1 seed has ever lost to a No. 16 seed in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
As I say in football, never bet against a streak.
There are always Cinderella stories in the tournament. Without fail, some no-name team pulls an upset over a top seed and captivates the country.
But it's important not to get Cinderella crazy with your picks. There will only be one, maybe two Cinderella stories in the tournament, if any at all.
Be bold, but resist the urge to go nuts.
There are several conferences with five or more teams in the tournament, but avoid filling your Elite Eight full of your favorite conference's teams.
1985 was the only year in which three teams from the same conference (Big East) made it to the Final Four.
Steve Alford is on a hot streak at New Mexico this year. The Lobos won the conference and tournament championship and were awarded a No. 3 seed in the 2010 NCAA Tournament.
Most people around the country will be quick to pick Alford's team to make it to the Sweet 16, but that won't happen. New Mexico will lose in the first round.
What most people don't know is that Alford is addicted to Murray's Pomade. Come NCAA tournament time, Alford has to look his best.
That means more pomade.
In the past, he has been known to spend a little too much time applying his pomade and not enough time preparing for tournament games. The last time an Alford team was rated as high as a No. 3 seed (Iowa, 2006), they were upset in the first round by Northwestern State.
New Mexico faces Montana in the opening round of this year's tournament.
They pick the teams with the prettiest uniforms. They root for the teams with the cutest boys.
They pick national champions based on the head coach's astrological sign.
Girlfriends don't use any form of logic when filling out their NCAA brackets, so it would be wise to avoid using their train of thought on your own bracket.
Expect to see teams like Kansas and Texas do well because of the near-home court advantage in the tournament.
Getting a chance to play the opening rounds as close to your fanbase as possible helps the team's excitement and energy level. This becomes particularly important for the smaller schools.
Make sure to take notice of where the teams are playing before you pick the winner.
Most people take part in some sort of NCAA tournament office pool. As such, avoid taking advice on a team from your computer nerd coworker.
Milton plays WoW for 90 percent of his time away from work. Do you really think he has an inside tip on a for-sure Final Four team? No. The only reason he is playing in the office bracket is for the chance to wear jeans to work if he wins the office pool.
Don't take Milton's advice, even if he has a complex algorithm to explain why his theory is a lock.
Most mistakes are easy enough to avoid or overcome, but there is one mistake that could destroy your entire bracket from the very beginning.
Avoid picking a team to win the NCAA championship that doesn't have at least one All-American on it. Since 1979, every NCAA champion but Maryland in 2002 has had at least one McDonald’s All-American.
With the talent in the tournament this year, that shouldn't be a hard thing to avoid.