March Madness 2014 Bracket: 10 Fun Ways to Make Winning Picks

Scott Harris@ScottHarrisMMAMMA Lead WriterMarch 17, 2014

March Madness 2014 Bracket: 10 Fun Ways to Make Winning Picks

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    John Calipari is confused. He shouldn't be. This all makes perfect sense.
    John Calipari is confused. He shouldn't be. This all makes perfect sense.Steve Helber/Associated Press

    Every college basketball fan understands the cliche, because every college basketball fan has been there.

    You watch games throughout the season, ramping up when the winter weather starts to break. 

    Then, Selection Sunday. You print your bracket. You spread out the newspaper, open a website site or six and carefully make your picks. In pencil. Then you sleep on it. Then you make them in ink.

    Then the intern from payroll—you know, the one who smirks at you whenever you talk about sports and is always lecturing you about why you should home-brew your own ginger beer—wins the whole thing.

    No more. Stand up to the gods of misfortune, I tell you. Join them, I say, if you, like every other college basketball fan, cannot beat them.

    Why tie yourself in knots? Why do things like "research" or "follow the sport?" Give yourself over to the randomness, dare I say "madness," of March, and your transition to the dark side will be complete.

    Need a little push to get started? Just follow one or more of these 10 simple strategies when filling out this year's bracket. They will seem silly at first, but less so when you win.

Throw Some Darts

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    Anonymous/Associated Press

    Here's a fun one. And you can even do it in the pub.

    Tack team names onto the board, assign teams or regions to a given number or segment of the circle, or just toss the darts now and figure it all out later. 

    There is no better way to embrace the chaos that needs to be embraced. The dartboard is your canvas, sir or madam. Innovate.

Uniform Colors

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    Julie Jacobson/Associated Press

    Don't kid yourself: This one is a lot more challenging than meets the eye. After all, what do you do if your favorite color isn't red, white or blue? Kind of limits the options, doesn't it?

    No one said this would be easy. Put the work in. Dig around. Look to the Iowa and/or Oklahoma states of the world. Look to Oregon. By gosh, look to Oregon! Not directly, though. You'll go blind.

    And you know what? If your favorite color is not in the tournament, just pick the next closest thing.


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    The Wichita State mascot pumps up the crowd.
    The Wichita State mascot pumps up the crowd.Pat Sullivan/Associated Press

    Rooting for mascots makes the act of rooting that much more exciting.

    Who needs the players and teams and stuff? Just wait for the commercial intros and outros, spot your mascot and cheer away!

    Everyone can get behind that. No one can resist rooting for a giant orange, like the Syracuse mascot. Or the Stanford tree. Or, root for the coup de grace, the Wichita State wheat thing.

    With a little homework, you can customize your entire bracket around these fearless cheerleaders, and stand out from the throng who are watching only for the basketball. Rubes.

Team Name

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    Gonzaga mascot
    Gonzaga mascotJames Snook-USA TODAY Sports

    To the untrained eye, this may seem the same as the mascot category. But there is a difference, and a very significant one. Allow me to educate you.

    See, maybe you think the Syracuse mascot is cool, for example. But the name—Orange—leaves you wanting. 

    Team names allow you to take it to the next level. And you can tailor your picks based on your interests outside of basketball.

    Dog lover? Try the Gonzaga Bulldogs or the Wofford Terriers on for size. History buff? Go ahead and mark the Massachusetts Minutemen among your Final Four contingent. Fast food chicken aficionado? The Eastern Kentucky Colonels have you covered. 

    Or learn something new. Get a lesson on baseball (yes, baseball) lore with the Manhattan Jaspers. Hitch your wagon to 16-seed Coastal Carolina and become an expert on chanticleers, which I believe are some sort of hovercraft (not really). 

    See? Now we're thinking outside the basketball. This is how you win the big money.

Famous Fans or Alums

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    Kentucky fan Ashley Judd
    Kentucky fan Ashley JuddAndy Lyons/Getty Images

    Good afternoon, Ashley.

    Ms. Judd, who is a famous actress, is just one example of a celebrated university alum that might pique your interest. But don't stop there! Find your own super awesome alums and mark down their alma maters.

    They don't even need to be affiliated with basketball. Any famous graduate will do. I'm told Harvard has several to choose from. And Nick Nolte went to Arizona State. You get the picture.

School Location

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    The University of Louisville
    The University of LouisvilleAndy Lyons/Getty Images

    Did you grow up in the Pacific Northwest? Still thinking about that vacation to Milwaukee? The tournament has a team for you.

    Every region of the country is represented. For the East Coast Megalopolis, you have teams representing the nation's capital (American, George Washington), Philadelphia (Villanova, St. Joseph's), New York City (Manhattan), Boston (UMass, Harvard) and points in between (Connecticut, Providence).

    For all those Southern boys and girls, there are squads including North Carolina, Florida, Memphis, Kentucky and Tennessee.

    Now, go West, young person, with UCLA, Gonzaga, Stanford, New Mexico, Texas and Baylor.

    And last but not least, there's plenty of action in America's breadbasket, from Wichita State to Kansas to Kansas State to Dayton to Ohio State and more.

    Design your own ultimate road trip and map it out on your bracket. How can this not be successful?

School Name

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    One of the little schools that made it. So cute!
    One of the little schools that made it. So cute!David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

    Get yourself away from those big state, directional schools. Those aren't exciting school names. Let's take a walk on the wild side this season. Get some culture all up in yourself. 

    Also, if your school of choice is named after a person, and not a state, it means your school is much better. That's just a fact.

    Take Mercer, for example. Nice private school in Georgia. Eighty-three hundred kids. Did you know they have a Health Sciences Center?

    Or check out Creighton. A fine school. Doug McDermott and so forth. 

    Also, you have Harvard. Don't know much about that one, but it sounds good. But also there's Providence, Wofford, St. Joseph's, Baylor and Stanford(??). Some of these institutions are quite anonymous. Like, what state is Stanford even in? Can't tell by the name.

    But that's what any college thing should be part about, you know? It should part be at least part about learning.

Players with Awesome Hair

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    Kentucky's Willie Cauley-Stein
    Kentucky's Willie Cauley-SteinJames Crisp/Associated Press

    Fan of the daring 'dos, are you? Wise strategy. (Nods slowly.)

    Because if that's the case, your bracket is looking pretty good right now. Thanks to Willie Cauley-Stein and his mane carousel, you have Kentucky going far. Ditto Ohio State, because of Amedeo Della Valle

    Perhaps the Ashley Parker Angel frat boy special rocked by Wichita State's Ron Baker is more your speed. 

    Or, you know what? Maybe you prefer the hairstyles in the stands

Players with Regular Hair

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    See how customizable this is? The bracket is your tabula rasa, and from there, it's up to you.

    If you're looking more for a hair style you can really set your watch to, go for the Duke Blue Devils. Or, I don't know, Cincinnati. Creighton? San Diego State? 

    Feel free to get creative with this one. Your guess is literally as good as mine.

Lowest Seeds Win

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    Weber State: it could happen.
    Weber State: it could happen.Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

    Have you ever noticed that even people who pretend not to know what they're talking about still follow the numbers?

    Throw that out. Have American vs. Mercer in the title game. Have Coastal Carolina upsetting Virginia in the first round. Because why not? Come on. The ginger beer intern is going to win no matter what you do, and you know it.

    So if it's all going to be up to chance anyway, you might as well go the full monty. As noted sports fan Justin Timberlake once said, go ahead. Be bold with it.

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