If you want to win your pool, your best chance is to leave it to chance. Enlarge your bracket sheet, dip your cat's paws in paint and let him walk on it to make the picks. Or, have your addled great-uncle make your picks for you after you've plyed him with several whiskey sours at the VFW or American Legion.
But if you're like me, you revel in being out of the running before Vitale's dome turns that very unique, distinct shade of dark umber that he gets in the Sweet Sixteen. I like to make extra copies of my picks to throw at the television. It makes watching my picks go down one by one more fun. Here are some easy steps to royally screwing up your picks.
1. Pick your favorite team to advance to the final. This step is much less effective if you are a fan of Duke or Kansas, because you have somewhat decent odds with those teams. But, if like me, you root for a program that has never won a title, nay, even made it to the Final Four, be sure to pencil your team in to the National Championship game. Oh, and while we're here, if you are a fan of Duke or Kansas, from the bottom of my heart, kindly piss off.
2. Listen to the 'experts.' Were I a younger person, the kind who could stay up for many hours on end, I could have I been watching, listening to and reading bracket breakdowns, bracket busters and upset specials non-stop for the last 40-some odd hours. Too. Much. Information. And really, if you hear Doug Gottlieb say one thing, you'll hear Jay Bilas say another, then read Andy Katz saying something else, and have Dick Vitale shouting about something, baaabeeeeee! By then you're like a dog chasing his tail. Be sure to inundate yourself with information if you want your bracket sheet to be FUBAR.
3. Factor in Venue. Along those lines, everybody's looking for an edge and what better than pseudo-home court advantage? Oh, lookie! Gonzaga's playing St. John's IN DENVER. That will give them a huge advantage. Not.
4. Pick a huge underdog. For every George Mason and Butler, there are hundreds of other mid-major teams that fall in the early rounds. Everybody wants to be the smart guy who picks the big underdog winner -- the one jerk you knew who crowed about picking Vermont to win over Syracuse in the first round in 2005. (And yeah, I did know that guy and my phone blew up the second that clock hit 0:00.) But if you try it, more likely than not, woe be unto your bracket sheets. However, if you do make that pick, even though your brackets are otherwise as lovely as a rusted, mangled, twisted hunk of sheet metal, you get to crow about your prescience in picking the big upset that everybody's talking about. So you've got that going for you.
5. Pick just the favorites. The history of the tourney is rife with upsets and if you don't pick one or two, you will surely be screwed when some Goliath goes down. One year I tried to pick against all the lower seeds and just picked the favorites. I was bitter and spiteful, so I changed tacts. Still, I was out of the running before I even started to feel my first hangover of March Madness.
6. Pick all the 12 seeds over 5 seeds in the first round. Every year, there's a 12 over a 5, right? The trick is -- which one? Richmond over Vandy? Utah St. over Kansas St.? Memphis over Zona? TBA (seriously, I don't know who it is yet, so really how I am expected to make this kind of a pick?) over WVU? Screw it. Pick them all!
7. Pick Gonzaga to make a deep run. They seem to be poised, almost all the time. And every time I pick them to advance past the Sweet Sixteen I get hosed. So get hosed. Pick the Zags!
8. Make your picks based on deep-seated antipathy. No doubt I have screwed myself in the past by picking against the entire ACC, picking against a coach who I find irksome (hey, there, Mr. Pitino) or picking against a fanbase (yes, UNC, I am looking at you.) It doesn't work. If you want to give yourself a fighting chance, repeat Michael Corleone's mantra -- it's not personal, it's just business. However, if you want to flame out spectacularly, pick the teams you hate to go down in the first round. You may even get lucky. You never know when little Weber State is going to smite UNC.
Off to make one last go-around with my Bracket Sheet of Crap. Enjoy the tourney.