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MUSICK: Eight simple ways to win your bracket

Published: Monday, March 18, 2013 5:30 a.m. CST

Psst. Hey, you.

Yeah, you.

Check this out for a second.

We have eight surefire strategies to help you win your NCAA tournament pool.

Yeah, to win it.

The advice is free, provided you do one favor for us.

Use your massive winnings to keep buying newspapers. This one, to be specific, but helping others is OK, too.

Thanks.

Now go win your bracket.

Nicknames

Pop quiz: What the heck is a Billiken? It’s OK. Nobody else knows for sure, either. But we do know it’s the nickname for St. Louis University, which is why you might consider picking the Billikens to go far if you adopt a nickname-based approach. Other schools to consider: The South Dakota State Jackrabbits, Albany Great Danes, Akron Zips and Iona Gaels.

Connections

This method works on multiple levels. Go ahead and select a team for the Final Four if you attended that school (Go Illini!), or if you have a family member who attended that school, or a friend, or a friend’s relative, or a friend’s relative’s kid’s teacher’s neighbor’s cousin’s insurance salesperson.

Geography

Here we go, Midwest, here we go! (Clap, clap.) Let’s face it. The Southeast part of the country tends to dominate in college football. The Southwest is filled with terrific college baseball programs.

The Pacific Northwest has mountains and the ocean, which is totally unfair, and the Northeast is obnoxious. This is our time to shine.

Colors

This strategy is simple and (possibly) effective. Pick a color, any color, and fill out your bracket with a school color that matches. In honor of Northwestern not making the tournament (again) and hunting for a new coach to lift the program (again), let’s go with purple: Kansas State, James Madison, Northwestern State and St. Mary’s. Full disclosure: St. Mary’s wears blue and red, which makes purple.

Coaches

Players come and go, but coaches often are the reason some college basketball programs thrive and others founder. Come tournament time, it’s not a bad idea to pick teams led by proven coaches. Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski has four NCAA titles. Florida’s Billy Donovan has two. Michigan State’s Tom Izzo has one to go along with approximately 49 (OK, six) Final Four appearances. It’s something to consider.

Opposites

Do you despise Duke? Do you loathe Louisville? Do you abhor Arizona? If so, consider picking those schools to go far. Either way, you benefit. If they do well, your bracket is strong and you can brag about your great predictions. If they flop, you might lose your bets, but you’ll win the right to see that hated team go home early.

Underdogs

When it comes to college basketball, underdog wins comprise the magic of March. Who will forget Bryce Drew’s buzzer-beater in 1998, which gave No. 13 seed Valparaiso an upset win against No. 4 seed Mississippi? Or how about when No. 14 seed Bucknell knocked off No. 3 seed Kansas in 2005? If you pick lots of underdogs, you’ll miss a few, but it will be worthwhile for the one(s) you get right.

Coin flip

This is by far the most scientific approach. Although well-aged coins are preferable, you can get by with a newer model. Much of filling out your NCAA bracket is a guessing game, but one thing is certain: That shiny nickel you’re about to flip knows just as much as any so-called expert who tries to predict this crazy tournament.

• Shaw Media sports columnist Tom Musick can be reached at tmusick@shawmedia.com and on Twitter @tcmusick.

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