March Madness 101: Tips for filling out your bracket: The Dodo likes Toto, take Kansas

Yes, I picked Kansas and already in the office they’re calling me the, “Dodo that picked Toto.” Whatever, the last office pool I won was in 2008 with Kansas and every year I’m usually in the hunt going into the final weekend. Don’t look for me to go out on a limb, I like the top four seeds to reach the Final Four, and while that may seem boring, that’s how you win office pools, not trying to be too cute. I use to ask horse racing handicapper Jack Karlik why he always picked favorites, he would say, “you want the winners or not kid.” That goes for the NCAA tournament too, trying to pick too many upsets can ruin your bracket really quick. When picking the champion, don’t go with the most popular choice, go with the third, fourth or fifth most popular pick, which is why I like Kansas — again…

March Madness isn’t just about the upsets, buzzer beaters or Dick Vitale screaming through your television. It’s not just about tournament heavyweights Duke, Ohio State, Kansas and Pittsburgh walking a tightrope through early rounds or George Mason, Belmont, Oakland or USC hoping to become the next Cinderella at the dance.
March Madness is about everyone.
Whether you’re at work, home or by a computer or television, chances are you’re filling out your NCAA men’s basketball tournament bracket this week and will have it somewhere by your side over the next three weeks until a champion is crowned April 4 in Houston. Although gambling on NCAA tournament pools is technically illegal, it’s what Americans do this time of year.The FBI estimates that $2.5 billion was wagered worldwide on the NCAA tournament last year. There are also estimates that March Madness will cost employers roughly $1.8 billion in “unproductive wages,” unless of course if you work in sports and have the designated task of breaking down the field from 68 to one. So, pay attention, if you’re filling out the bracket: There are four play-in games that start tonight so move Alabama State, Arkansas Little Rock, Clemson and USC into the field of 64. Now, let’s get started. (To continue, click thread).

Top seeds:
1. Ohio State, 2. North Carolina, 3. Syracuse, 4. Kentucky.
Sleepers: George Mason, Marquette
First-round winners: Ohio State, George Mason, West Virginia, Kentucky, Marquette, Syracuse, Washington, North Carolina.
Second-round winners: Ohio State, Kentucky, Syracuse, North Carolina.
Semifinals: Ohio State, North Carolina.
Champion: Ohio State
Analysis: Of all the regions, this is the most loaded and difficult to project. The top four seeds look like a Final Four and there are sleepers that could screw up the region. You can ruin your bracket trying to be too risky, so make the safe play, don’t ruin your bracket here. Most will have Ohio State going all the way, so go along for the ride. If you’re right, great. If you’re not, you’re not alone.

Top seeds:
1. Duke, 2. San Diego State, 3. Connecticut, 4. Texas
Sleepers: Oakland, Memphis
First-round winners: Duke, Michigan, Arizona, Texas, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Temple, San Diego State.
Second-round winners: Duke, Texas, Connecticut, San Diego State.
Semifinals: Duke, Connecticut.
Champion: Duke
Analysis: Nobody is better prepared this time of year than Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, and when he has a No. 1 seed, bank on it. The defending national champs won with a top seed last year and have been the top seed 12 times during Krzyzewski’s tenure, winning three national titles and compiling a 43-8 overall record as a top seed. If you’re thinking of taking risks, San Diego State and Texas aren’t bad choices, and neither is Connecticut.

Top seeds:
1. Kansas, 2. Notre Dame, 3. Purdue, 4. Louisville
Sleepers: USC, Texas A&M, Richmond
First-round winners: Kansas, Illinois, Richmond, Louisville, Georgetown, Purdue, Texas A&M, Notre Dame.
Second-round winners: Kansas, Louisville, Purdue, Texas A&M.
Semifinals: Kansas, Texas A&M.
Champion: Kansas
Analysis: This is a risk-taking region, especially in the first and second rounds, but don’t get overly risky and knock out Kansas — the Jayhawks are still head and shoulders above the rest. Upsets could come in the form of Illinois over UNLV, Richmond over Louisville and possibly USC over Georgetown. Guard play is crucial, which is why I like Texas A&M’s chances of reaching the final with guards B.J. Holmes and Dash Harris. But Kansas wins.

Top seeds:
1. Pittsburgh, 2. Florida, 3. BYU, 4. Wisconsin.
Sleepers: St. John’s, Kansas State, Butler
First-round winners: Pittsburgh, Butler, Kansas State, Belmont, St. John’s, BYU, UCLA, Florida.
Second-round winners: Pittsburgh, Kansas State, St. John’s, UCLA.
Semifinals: Pittsburgh, St. John’s
Champion: Pittsburgh
Analysis: While everyone tries to pick upsets in arguably the most difficult region to project, stay with top seed Pittsburgh and hope it’s a huge payoff. Several teams can legitimately win the Southeast like Kansas State, Wisconsin, St. Johns, Florida, BYU, or UCLA, so if you pick the winner or several winners, you’re in very good shape.

FINAL FOUR: Ohio State over Duke; Kansas over Pittsburgh
CHAMPION: Kansas over Ohio State
Analysis: Why Kansas? Because the two most obvious choices will be Duke and Ohio State and you want to stay away from the most popular choices if you’re trying to win your office pool. Yes, Duke won last year, but even if you had Duke, so did many others, making your chances of winning slim. If you’re going to pick the champion, you might as well be rewarded so taking a less obvious choice with still a great chance to win is usually the way to go. That’s why I like Kansas, a top seed with only two losses in a region that is winnable and a Final Four where Duke and Ohio State are on the other side of the bracket.

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