What Is The Biggest Mistake For Filling Out Your NCAA Tournament Bracket?

Sam BlumCorrespondent IMarch 16, 2010

DENVER - MARCH 20:  Will Thomas #34 of the George Mason Patriots drives to the basket against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the first round of the East Regional as part of the 2008 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Pepsi Center on March 20, 2008 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

For all those fans who fill out a bracket this time of year, there is one message that you need to hear. Don't pick the Cinderella. A team like Davidson and George Mason might come around every so often, however, if you hope to win your office or school pool, play it smart.

Every team that goes to the tournament is a good team, and some are better than others. A look at this years bracket, and you can see a flurry of potential Cinderellas. But before you jump the gun, take a minute to consider...

Their opponent. If their oppenent is likely to not only beat your "cinderella", but also the team that they play after, then don't pick Cinderella team to win. This should exclude all teams ranked 13 or higher. It is possible that a 13 or higher can win, but if they don't you could be digging yourself in a deep hole.

One should also consider the team that they have chosen. For example, one look at Siena this year and you could be tempted to have them going far into the tournament.

In your mind they will definitely beat Purdue, and will have a good shot at Texas A&M or Utah St. in the second round; you might be tempted to pick the Saints as this years top dark horse. Keep in mind the fact that if you have an upset team going to the elite eight, and they lose in the first round, there is a lot of ground to make up.

One should also consider the popularity of the Cinderella. If most people have chosen the same team to go far, then picking them might not be as risky. Then again, you might benefit from picking the less risky team because you were one of just a few to do so.

You should know a lot about the team before choosing an underrated team to go far. Look at statistics of how the team has fared against teams with similar records and similar success.

Most Cinderella's are mid-majors and don't face the same caliber opponent. For example, Cornell (12 seed) nearly upset Kansas (1 seed), while Murray St. (13 seed) lost badly to California (8 seed). Look at how the team has done recently, and make sure the team isn't an injury problem that recently surfaced.

I know it can be tempting to look at a team, and say thats my ticket, thats who I am going for. Keep in mind that brackets are valued more in the later rounds, and if your team isn't there, then your bracket becomes worthless. This tournament should be unique and challenging with the different levels of talent, but that doesn't mean you can't play it smart.