Okay, the problem here is obvious. You guys are picking using logic, statistical probability, and your knowledge of basketball. That's a big mistake. They don't call this tournament "March Logic," after all. It's madness! The only way to fill out a bracket is to throw away all you think you know and fully embrace the crazy. Go with your gut. Go with hunches. Pick against teams because you hate their uniforms. Take them to win because you love their mascot. It'll be infinitely easier and more fun than number-crunching research. Plus, the sheer wackiness of the Big Dance means you'll probably do just as well as any hardcore bracketologist. For me anyway, being emotional is the point. Filling out a bracket isn't about being rational. It's about being a lunatic KU fan, and every pick is made looking through a Jayhawk lens.
Upset Special: Every year the 5-12 match-ups are hotbeds of upset picks. Like everyone else, I'm looking towards Oregon and Oklahoma State. Unlike everyone else, my main motivation is bitterness. The Cowboys beat Kansas in Allen Field House this year, busting KU's 33-game home-court winning streak. It was galling. I'm totally not over it, and won't be for some time. Despite the ugliness of Oregon's uniforms, and the sham of calling the Pac-10 a major basketball conference, sheer malice compels me to pick against OSU.
Bracket Buster: As we all know, a 16-seed has never won a game in the NCAA tourney. Someday one will. Maybe it's now. Take the Southern University Jaguars to beat Gonzaga. Sure, Southern U's strength of schedule ranked last among all 347 NCAA Division I teams. Yes, the Jags have about as much chance to beat the Bulldogs as a high school JV team does of beating the Miami Heat. But imagine how brilliant you'll look if it actually happens.
Cinderella Team: Truthfully? There can't be one. There's too much parity this year. Barring a run by my SU Jaguars, there's barely a team in the tourney that could make the Final Four and be truly called a Cinderella—even if they are a double-digit seed from a non-BCS conference. That said, you guys already mentioned my favorite fairy-tale picks; St. Mary's against Memphis and Belmont over Arizona. 11-seed Bucknell has a solid shot, too. But again, the fan factor is in play. My head may like Bucknell to win. My heart hasn't forgiven them for a 2005 first-round upset of Kansas.
Dream Match-up: Is this a trick question? Former Kansas coach and current Tarheels head man Roy Williams has brought Carolina to Kansas City as an 8-seed. If UNC can beat Villanova, and Bill Self's Jayhawks top Western Kentucky on Friday night, two of the game's most storied programs and greatest coaches will clash on Sunday afternoon at Sprint Center. From where I sit—a few miles from the arena—that looks like a match-up any college hoops fan would dream of.
If UNC can beat Villanova, and Bill Self's Jayhawks top Western Kentucky on Friday night, two of the game's most storied programs and greatest coaches will clash on Sunday afternoon at Sprint Center.
Player to Watch: Jake... Dude. You took Ben McLemore? Seriously? The red-shirt freshman phenom at Kansas about whom I've been obsessing all season—including a rhapsodic ode in this very space—and you picked him as the tourney player to watch before I could? That's just cold, yo.
Championship Pick: Sure, Ohio State is the safest pick. Michigan State my dark-horse threat. Rationally, I know that KU will have a tough time of it. Top-seed or not, this KU team has been wildly inconsistent. They are no sure bet to get past UNC and (probably) VCU to reach Atlanta, let alone to win it all. But I'm still picking them to win it all, anyway. Because I care more about being a fan than doing well in an office pool. And being a fan, in my case anyway, means being crazy and superstitious enough to believe that the act of picking a team to win a title will actually help them win it.