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March Madness bracket tip: Preparation won’t help


Who you got in your bracket? Do you think Kansas can make it out of the Region of Death? Which double-digit seeds will advance to the Sweet 16? Will a No. 1 win it all?

Before you absorb all of the expert’s upset calls, bold predictions and bracket simulators, let me just say this:

Stop it. They won’t help you.

I don’t know about you, but I fool myself every year. I watch college basketball intently not only because I enjoy the game; I watch so that I’m more knowledgeable when it comes time to fill out my bracket. That’s the plan at least. Then the bracket is unveiled — curiously sooner than planned this year — and I dive into the matchups.

Senior leadership. Tourney-tested coaches. Solid guard play. Low turnover rates. Pace. Rebounding margins. 3-point defense.  It’s that and more which I look at when deciding who should advance. 

I read, I watch, I recall, all in the name of preparation. I complete my bracket, but continue to stress over whether I’ve made the right calls in those crucial 4-13, 5-12 and 6-11 pairings. Second-guessing reigns supreme.

Finally, Thursday morning arrives mercifully and everything locks.

Within two hours, I discover that I have wasted my time. That’s what happened last year when 14th-seeded UAB knocked off Big 12 Tournament champion Iowa State, a team many had rolling to the Sweet 16 and beyond, in the day’s first set of games. Who saw that coming? And the number of brackets still intact after that game became microscopically small when Georgia State, another 14 seed, beat Baylor later in the afternoon.

Who had Dayton moving to the Elite 8 in 2014?

What about the emergence of Florida Gulf Coast’s “Dunk City,” and Wichita State getting to the Final Four in 2013?

Two 15 seeds won games in 2012. If you predicted that, you are a liar.

The fact that any team, no matter how much more talented or favored, can be defeated by any other team on any given day is what makes the NCAA Tournament great. That is its calling card, its legacy. The buzzer-beating upsets are often times more memorable than the teams that actually won the entire thing.

And I am no longer such an idiot to believe that I can forecast those upsets through a certain level of stat-gathering and analysis. Because I can’t and neither can you. Results no one expected are certain to occur this week. Something on the level of Lakers over Warriors in 2016 is almost assured. So mark up your brackets, but don’t think too hard about your choices. Flip those coins. Pick one mascot over another. Go squarely with your gut. Odds are you will be just as correct as those people, such as myself, who think they actually have a beat on college basketball. Plus, you will save yourself from the dreadful feeling that you wasted precious time in your life scouring over reams of information with no benefit.

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