Before filling out a NCAA tournament bracket, many people hunt for tips from college basketball experts. With the rise of the blogosphere, that hunt has gotten a bit overwhelming. Every sports section, sports blog, homegrown fan site, and their proverbial mother has inked 16, 34, or 64 essential tips for the perfect bracket.
That's where we come in. We waded through hundreds of predictions, cutting out general truisms along the lines of "Be careful about falling in love with Cinderella teams." Then we boiled it all down to the five most specific, durable tips for would-be office champs.
- Limit Your 'Upset Specials' to the First Two Rounds The Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Mac Engel warns against rolling the dice by expecting a high seed to reach the Final Four.
Do be cute early, boring late: Have fun with the Cinderella picks in the first two rounds. For the Final Four, go with the favorites. In the past five years, 10 No. 1 seeds have reached the Final Four.
- Two No. 1 Seeds, and Two Only "Put two No. 1 seeds in the Final 4," instructs Bleacher Report's Jeff Pencek. "In seven of the last 11 years, at least two No. 1 seeds have made the Final 4." That said... "put no more than two No. 1 seeds in the Final 4. During the same period, only two years has more than two No. 1 seeds made it, in 1999 and 2008."
- Stay Away from Kentucky Bucking popular wisdom, ESPN's Tim Keown deep-sixes the Wildcats--a popular Final Four pick who finished the year ranked No. 2--after just three rounds. "When Kentucky will go down: In the Sweet 16, against Wisconsin, a team that will impose its will on the Wildcats and force the youngsters into foul trouble and general impatience."
- Ditto for Duke "After Duke makes the Sweet 16, get rid of them quickly," Pencek says, making a strong case against Mike Krzyzewski's high-profile Blue Devils. "Since 2002, Duke has made it past the sweet 16 once, in 2004. Maybe you think the bracket is weak and advance them to the Elite 8, but it's a big risk and Duke has let past bracket people down before."
- Potential Sleeper? UTEP In warning people away from red-hot No. 5 seed Butler, Engel argues the Miners could be one of the Sweet 16.
Don't pick Butler: The Bulldogs are always a cute team to pick, but they never go anywhere because, despite good guard play, they have no real size. And their game against UTEP is a rough 12-5 matchup. The Miners' combo of guard Randy Culpepper and Louisville transfer Derrick Caracter is too much. Don't be shocked if UTEP makes the Sweet 16.
- And One More for the Road (to the Final Four) For all you St. Patrick's Day revelers/upset dreamers out there:
Finally, if you had five too many drinks on St. Pat's Day and have lost your mind and think this is the year a No. 1 seed loses in the first round, pick Kentucky to lose. East Tennessee State is a scary out. They had Pittsburgh on the ropes for awhile last year as a No. 16 seed. Before that they had the crazy good lefty Tim Smith who almost propelled them to wins as a No. 15 seed and a No. 13 seed. In 1992, East Tennessee State won as a No. 14 seed. I know a win might not happen, but the Bucs can keep it within 20.