The most important aspect of the NCAA tournament is not which team ultimately wins the national title, but rather the millions of people scrambling at the beginning to construct the perfect bracket.
It is a futile annual addiction. And here we are again, unable to help ourselves, searching for theories and any shred of information that may help predict an upset.
Being just one year removed from the first-ever No. 16 seed upset of a No. 1 seed in men's college basketball only intensifies the hysteria.
You are cordially invited by B/R to print off this downloadable bracket and make your best picks, courtesy of NCAA.com.
The 68-team tournament tips off on Thursday afternoon, so time is running out for you to submit your final bracket—or brackets, let's be honest.
This year's No. 1 seeds are Duke, Gonzaga, North Carolina and Virginia. While it may be tempting to select another first-round upset, especially since the Cavaliers are back as a No. 1 seed and still lingering in 2018's embarrassment at the hands of UMBC, NCAA.com laid out just how unlikely it is to reoccur.
The article noted: "Even with UMBC's 20-point win, the average margin for the 136 1 vs. 16 games since 1985 (the first year the bracket included 16 seeds) is 24.36 points in favor of the 1 seeds."
The official NCAA website also highlighted that no game between the first and 16th seeds has been decided by one possession since 1996. In other words, you're either banking on a No. 1 seed blowing out a No. 16 seed (likely) or a No. 16 seed catching a top seed on an off night to blow the game open (happened once).
Outside of the 16 seeds, there are plenty of sleepers in this year's field—two of which will play each other in the first round in No. 7 Wofford and No. 10 Seton Hall.
Wofford has not lost since Dec. 19, and Seton Hall came within two points of claiming the Big East tournament title. In fact, Seton Hall upset Marquette, seeded fifth in the West Region, in the semifinals.
The Marquette Golden Eagles could be something of a sleeper themselves as Gonzaga is the top seed in their region, and the Bulldogs have developed a reputation in recent years for being unable to transfer high-level achievement in the regular season to the tournament.
However, Marquette will first have to see off No. 12 Murray State in the first round. Marquette has the 2018-19 Big East Player of the Year in junior guard Markus Howard but has lost five of its last six games.
Traditionally, at least one No. 12 seed upsets a fifth seed. The other No. 12 with potential to hold up that theory this year is Oregon against Wisconsin. The Ducks won their final four regular-season games by an average margin of approximately 18 points, per ESPN, before claiming the Pac-12 tournament title.
Another sleeper is Buffalo, seeded sixth in the West Region after finishing the season 31-3. In 2018, the Bulls upended brackets by upsetting the fourth-seeded Arizona Wildcats. This time around, they'll be the higher seed against No. 11 Arizona State. However, a win there would still be considered an upset and bring further tournament shame to the desert.
As for high seeds to avoid, No. 3 LSU tops the list. The program has been in disarray since head coach Will Wade was suspended indefinitely following his involvement in an FBI wiretap report. He was suspended ahead of the Tigers' regular-season finale.
LSU will face No. 14 Yale in the first round.
The Kansas Jayhawks, No. 4 in the Midwest Region, have been a fickle team all season and are fresh off of a 22-point whooping at the hands of Iowa State in the Big 12 tournament finals, which was compounded by them not winning the regular-season conference title for the first time in 14 years.
Away from home this season (not including the Big 12 tournament), Kansas is 3-8. While No. 13 Northeastern may not oust Kansas in the first round, No. 5 Auburn could do so in the second round. All in all, riding Kansas deep into March does not seem like a wise choice.
The last time one conference had three No. 1 seeds at once was in 2009, and the ACC has that this year. Many expect Duke and North Carolina to face off in the national championship game, and while that is a fair expectation, you can't dismiss Villanova.
It's odd to think of the defending champions as a sleeper, but the Wildcats lost four key players to the NBA following last year's national title victory.
Jay Wright's squad won a third consecutive Big East tournament trophy and is still a contender to claim a third title in four years, even though the team's adjusted offensive efficiency dropped out of the top five this season (16th) for the first time since 2014, per KenPom.
Villanova is seeded sixth in the South Region and will face No. 11 Saint Mary's in the first round. With Virginia as the top seed in that region, and chronically underperforming as a top seed in recent years, the Wildcats could well come out of it.
Regardless of who makes it to the Final Four or even who wins the championship, bracket pools are either busted or won in the first and second rounds of the tournament. Do your due diligence on teams you are unfamiliar with, think it through but try not to overthink, and enjoy the remainder of the tournament once your bracket inevitably lands in the shredder.
This is the closest thing college basketball has to The Hunger Games, so "may the odds be ever in your favor."