Welcome to “How to fill out a March Madness bracket and other lies” where I’m going to give you five truths and five lies, and you have to figure out which ones are going to give you the edge in your office pool. If I’m giving away free advice, it’s going to come with a catch. (I am getting paid to write this, but you didn’t pay shit to read this.)
Also, this is March Madness, and writing a “How to” is about as helpful as writing a “How to win the lottery.” That said, clearly the best way to win both is by entering to win as many times as possible. Was that the first truth or the first lie? I don’t know, I’m crossing these bridges as I stumble upon them.
If you’re looking for someone to try their best not to lie to you and who honestly thinks they know a good way to predict a 68-team tournament played by a bunch of kids who are still figuring what a bar is, please check out the next hit on your Google search. (By the way, “Google it” is advice No. 2.)
Alright, are you ready for me to approach this like I approach the rest of my life and only take it half seriously? I know I am.
Pick a chalk to win it all, but not like a chalk-chalk
You think you’re the only one who has Duke winning it all? You’re not special. You’re a sentient pile of matter like the next loser who found the most popular high seed and picked them to win it all, and now you have to rely on the rest of your shitty picks to be less shitty than their picks.
Find a surprise high seed or one everybody hates like Kentucky, and try to ride them. Your best shot at this is to be right about a team no one else is picking. How many times has Doug in accounting complained about losing to someone who “knows nothing about basketball”? Well, he never shut up about Coach K to the point that he turned everyone at Initech into Dukies, so of course all their brackets went poof when the Blue Devils got upset in the second round.
This tried and true method never fails. Iowa and Creighton getting upset in the first round? I guarantee it. There’s nothing wrong with being petty about your picks just like there’s nothing wrong with disliking every school who’s ever employed Rick Pitino. My girlfriend went to Tennessee so I’ve had to change my stance from never bet on Rick Barnes to I guess I’m picking the Vols against my better judgment yet again.
This is your bracket, and if you say North Carolina has a shot, thou wish shall be granted. Wisconsin plays basketball the way it was played pre-shot clock, and even though you’re wrong about them whenever they get to the Sweet 16, every other year your hatred for the way they play has been validated. You know basketball, you got this.
Have your cinderella go out a round too late rather than a round too early
I have no idea what four-letter mid-major is going to be the next FGCU, and neither do you. I know it feels icky to choose a 13-seed over a 4, but you might as well give ’em a go in the next round, too, because someone is going to make a run.
“Pick upsets,” is too vague of advice to be of any use. The team you’ve never heard of before is your ticket to the temporary riches. Should you send all your double-digit seeds to the Elite Eight? Absolutely not, but if you’re right about one of them, you’ll look like a genius, and all of you idiots want to look smart even though you just spent $250 on brackets when you could’ve used it to purchase two years of Rosetta Stone.
Oftentimes the most aesthetically pleasing bracket also is the winning bracket. Remember the training you got from that one year of fashion school or that couple months of dating a girl who went to fashion school. Complementary colors are red and green, blue and orange, and yellow and purple. If the Knicks, Lakers, and Santa Claus-a University ever make the field of 68, ink them into the Final Four.
Go with trusted brands, as well. It’s not a coincidence that Maryland fell off after adopting Under Armor. Look what Oregon has done since Dana Altman arri — err, I mean Phil Knight turned the court into an impressionist painting of the Eugene wilderness. When the Swoosh isn’t looking the other way on labor practices in China, it’s sponsoring winners (or NIT entrants). Baylor is sponsored by Nike. Ipso facto Baylor won the national title last year.
Pick against lesser competition
The way my good friend cleans up at fantasy football every year is by playing against the same marks Mike McD and Worm scammed in the opening scam of Rounders. Find people who know nothing about college basketball, the kind of people who would Google “Best ways to fill out a bracket,” and hope your limited sports knowledge trumps their zero sports knowledge.
If you have no problem taking candy from a baby, this is the method for you. That said, how many babies have you seen with candy lately? Processed sugar and caffeine are the devil according to every mom I’ve ever met. I just had three-and-a-half doughnuts for lunch, and there are still some left. So maybe the adage should be, it’s like taking doughnuts from an overweight 35-year-old who just spent the past decade living in a town without a Beacon Doughnuts and now can’t control himself after moving to Chicago.
Lean toward NBA prospects on good teams
Going to NBADraft.net and scouting the prospects for insight into March Madness is not a terrible plan, but you have to know what you’re looking for. Kevin Durant went out in the round of 32. Same with Ja Morant. Derrick Rose was a Mario Chalmers heave away from winning the tourney. Steph Curry made a Sweet 16 at Davidson.
Pro prospects can make runs, but they’re more apt to do so when they’re on good teams. If there are multiple lottery picks from a school, that can be good or that can be a team full of one-and-dones ripe for an upset. You might have to do more than cursory research to figure out which team is good because they have a lottery pick, and which team just has a lottery pick. (If you want my personal opinion, and I don’t know why you would after reading the past 600-plus words, I think Jaden Ivey’s Purdue team is good. Also, Baylor has enough new pro talent and experienced holdovers from last year’s title team — remember Matt Mayer? — to go deep.)
Guard play matters
Again, if you actually want to get the most out of your March Madness gambling stipend, you’ll need to know something about the teams. I like stretchy wing players and big men as much as the next NBA fan, and that’s led me to screaming at TruTV or TBS on multiple occasions as prominent centers sit in foul trouble and small forwards clank 3s while unconscious, unknown veteran guards splash in triples.
This may be recency bias because I watched 5-seed St. Mary’s beat Gonzaga and then hang with them in the WCC final, but their backcourt has exactly the kind of makeup you want in March. Senior guards Tommy Kuhse and Logan Johnson have the look and ability to make you frustratedly yell, “How are these guys beating UCLA?”
Flip a coin
What do you do whenever you’re trying to settle a 50-50 decision? If you flip a coin, do that. If you trust Steph Furry, the TikTok corgi who picks games by shooting at baskets, then see how his jumper fared. This isn’t a scientific method, and who’s to say you actually follow through with how the quarter lands. Most of the time when I think something is 50-50 and flip a quarter, I end up finding out how I actually feel.
Oh shit, the quarter says workout? I think I’m still going to day-drink. Ask yourself: Would winning your pool really be that rewarding if your success was due to my stellar advice? You know what’s better than being right? Being right all along. You woke up, deemed Auburn the champion, and the games backed that up. Your gut never led you astray before; it may be upset because you ate doughnuts for four straight hours, but everything else has worked out OK.