Sports Columns

March 18, 2014

Devin Golden: Fun is best pick for tourney

If you’re at all interested in the NCAA basketball tournament, then you’re probably filling out a bracket for an office pool, Warren Buffett and Quicken Loans’ $1 billion challenge or countless other competitions. You can even sign up on The Daily Citizen’s website at daltonnow.com to take part in a bracket-picking contest.

If that’s true, then you’ll probably read tips from experts and insiders on strategies to fill out your bracket.

Guess what? None of those “strategies” work.

I’m the only person you should listen to, because unlike others, I don’t regurgitate unimportant, mindless statistics about how often a No. 13 seed beats a No. 4 seed. There’s little science to it — in fact, it’s all just a roll of the dice — and experts like to associate trends to the seeded numbers next to team names on the bracket.

I provide a different science to filling out your bracket: fun. Enjoy it.

You won’t get all 67 games correct using common sense, and you probably won’t come close to having the best bracket among your peers. So why not go a different route and try something new?

The most important rule is to forget about the basketball side of it and go with your gut instinct. It doesn’t need to come down to which point guard is more likely to get to the rim, or which post player will crash the boards. Uniforms matter. Nicknames matter. History matters. Word association matters.

So, here are an assortment of tips — some specific to certain teams and others general thoughts — to best help you fill out your bracket, and at the end I’ll even help you pick your champion. Here are nine teams and their tournament fates:

1. Duke will either lose in one of the first two rounds or make the Final Four. Maybe there have been exceptions, but all I remember is Duke going out early or cutting down the nets at the end. Safe bet? Pick Duke to lose to Massachusetts. Why? Because picking against Duke is one of the beloved traditions among college basketball fans (save for Duke supporters).

2. Speaking of Massachusetts, yes, pick UMass to win in the first round. Don’t fall for the Tennessee trap. As long as I can remember, Tennessee has always been God-awful in the NCAA tournament. I remember picking the Volunteers to lose as No. 4 seeds and everyone thinking I was crazy. Guess what? Tennessee lost. Why? Because they just do. Pick them to beat Iowa in one of today’s play-in games, if you’re feeling homer-ish. No further. You’ll thank me later.

3. Always root for the smart kids. Pick Harvard. Don’t look back.

4. Believe in a team that has a legit first name-middle initial-last name as its name. Stephen F. Austin may not be as prestigious as many, but picking that team just sounds like the right thing to do. Same for teams that are named after religious saints.

5. Creighton star Doug McDermott appeared on the front cover of Sports Illustrated. Creighton is officially cursed. Roll with the Ragin’ Cajuns from Louisiana-Lafayette. No, not “LaFayette,” like the town in Northwest Georgia where you stop and get gas. Lowercase that “f” and pick your No. 14 seed. Dicey, you say? It’s riskier to ignore the SI cover curse.

6. Wichita State is undefeated. The nickname is “the Shockers.” They shocked everyone last year making the Final Four as a No. 9 seed. This year, entering with a 31-0 record, they’re a No. 1 seed. I bet they shock everyone again, but for the wrong reasons. Oust them against Louisville or St. Louis in the Sweet 16.

7. Oregon has awesome uniforms. Also, they’re nicknamed the Ducks. If I know anything from The Mighty Ducks, it’s not to mess with the quack. Ducks fly together. Elite 8. That knocks out BYU, Wisconsin, Baylor and Nebraska.

8. Connecticut (UConn, for short) just sounds boring. Pick St. Joseph’s in the first round.

9. Villanova sounds like “vanilla,” which reminds me of vanilla ice cream. If you like ice cream, carry Villanova to at least the Sweet 16.

And now, for the last tips — choosing your champion. This is a special privilege. Your champion is the team you ride or die with. You should feel proud to pick them. They should be cool. They should have swag. And you should feel like that team is yours.

Here are the four rules that I made up five seconds ago to help pick your champion:

1. Don’t pick any No. 1 seeds. That’s boring. Everyone picks No. 1 seeds. Stand out.

2. Pick a team that hasn’t won it all in a long time, if ever. Spread the love.

3. Find the team seeded fourth or better that has good uniforms and a good nickname. Remember, swag is important.

4. Pick a team seeded fourth or better that meets all those requirements, and make sure the team won its conference tournament.

Iowa State isn’t a No. 1 seed — but is a No. 3 seed — never has won the championship, has great uniforms (red and yellow) and a great nickname (Cyclones) and won the Big 12 championship.

Roll the dice. Have some fun.

Devin Golden is a sports writer with The Daily Citizen. You can contact him at devingolden@daltoncitizen.com or follow him on Twitter @GoldenDev.

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