10 things to know before filling out your bracket

Hey all of you bracket-loving NCAA Tournament fanatics. Now that March Madness has started, here is my prediction for the 2012 NCAA Tournament.

As an amateur bracketologist, I have invested some time in learning about the teams in this 2012 NCAA Tournament and I have come up with a few guidelines for you to follow:

1. This is not the year to invest in the No. 16 seed. They are 0-108 since the NCAA expanded the tournament to 64 teams. Just don’t do it.

2. The No. 8 seed, No. 9 seed game is always a toss up. You might as well close your eyes and click because the ninth-seed only leads the bracket matchup series 57-51 in tournament history.

3. If you’re looking for a bracket-buster in the first round, go with your gut and take the No. 12 over No. 5 upset. Keep your eyes on Harvard and Long Beach State.

4. The No. 14 seed has not made it to a Sweet 16 in 15 years. Sorry, South Dakota State.

5. The seventh-seed has made it to 18 Sweet 16s and six Elite Eights, but never a Final Four. So don’t count on St. Mary’s or Gonzaga to make too much of a run.

6. Every No. 1 seed going to the Final Four has only happened once, in 2008, so don’t be surprised when Michigan State loses.

Here are some teams that you can jump on the bandwagon for, with no shame, and ride into some big upsets.

7. The New Mexico State Aggies just came off a dominant showing in the WAC Tournament and look to bring the fire to the NCAA Tournament behind Wendell McKines and Tyrone Watson. Indiana is playing without senior Verdell Jones III and the Hoosiers seem simply happy to be there rather than ready to win. The Aggies also lead nation this year with 1,048 free throws. Free points lead to wins, and in the NCAA Tournament they’re most valuable.

8. Long Beach State is another team you can invest a few picks on. The 49ers are 25-8 this season and if you do not know who Casper Ware is, you will by the end of this weekend. With 17.7 points per game and 3.3 assists, this 22-year-old senior is fire from behind the arc and can lead this No. 12 seed past New Mexico and even Louisville.

9. Harvard. This team has not been in the NCAA tournament since WWII, and the fifth-seeded Vanderbilt team they are facing is hot, but these Southeastern Conference champs have had the fourth- and fifth-seed for the past two years and lost in the first round each time.

10. Cincinnati is coming off a huge showing in the Big East Tournament and has the chance to make a nice run for the Final Four. The Bearcats beat top-ranked Syracuse and are matched against a Texas team that has struggled in past years at the Big Dance. After that, they’ll face a Florida State team that got a generous third-seed that can be beaten, giving them a chance to face up against Ohio State. Look for the ‘Cats to make a run to the Elite Eight.

Your Final Four should look similar to some of these picks, but it’s always OK to go with your gut and pick the bigger and better team.

1. Kentucky (sweeping the South Region)

2. Memphis (beating No. 1-seed Michigan State.)

3. Ohio State (beating Cincinnati and Syracuse)

4. North Carolina (beating No. 2-seed Kansas)

So don’t be that guy who doesn’t do his bracket until the night before and uses auto-fill. If you put some effort into this year’s bracket, you could come out with some cash or just get some bragging rights ‘til next March.

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