For the second year running, we’re proud to bring you some Right Field rules to March Madness bracket picks. If you followed our rules from last year, you just might have found that magic touch that enabled you to not embarrass yourself in your colleagues’ eyes. This year, we can promise a similar level of competence.
Perfected and honed over decades, this year’s guide contains some of the classic rules — and some updates, as well.
1. Don’t fall in love with the upset. It can’t be said enough. It’s fun to root for the underdog (and you should do so with joy, even when it might bust your bracket), but Cinderella is rare for a reason. Fill out your bracket from the inside out to make sure you don’t end up with double-digit seeds competing for your national title. If you like Louisville (1) to win it all, start there and work backwards.
2. Brand-name coaches have brand names for a reason. You’ve probably heard of Mike Krzyzewski, Rick Pitino, Roy Williams, Bill Self, and Tom Izzo. They’ve built great programs and they know how to win in March. That will make all the difference. If you think you’ve got a toss-up on your hands, go with the brand-name coach. (And never go against Tom Izzo.)
3. Chicks dig the long ball. A classic for any lower-ranked team looking for an upset: getting hot from beyond the three-point line will cause the big, powerful, methodical teams to go nuts. Lower-ranked schools with streaky shooters are fun upset picks. Harvard (14) and South Dakota State (13) were both top-ten in the NCAA in three-point percentage. (So were Duke and Indiana, but you’re already expecting them to win a few games.) Not that it means they’re a lock or will even pull off any upsets, but just know that they could cause some headaches.
4. Never bet on the West Coast. In the past 15 years, only two teams from the Mountain or Pacific time zones have made it to the final four: UCLA made it three straight times, from 2006 through 2008, and Arizona won the tournament in 1997 before making it back to the Final Four in 2001. Beware of Gonzaga (1) and New Mexico (3).
5. Unique teams have unique advantages. For some of the less-prestigious programs playing against other teams that are seeing them for the first time, gadgetry and trickery can be powerful allies. Look at Virginia Commonwealth University, for example: Their max-effort full-court trap defense is something that schools within their conference prepare to face for months. Schools that never expected to play against VCU will have, at most, a few days to prepare.
6. Matchups matter. For all we just wrote about the power of a unique attack, matchups still matter. Not many teams have seen Syracuse’s 2-3 zone defense, but Syracuse is susceptible to very good three-point shooting teams precisely because of their defensive system. Wisconsin plays a slowdown tempo that allows them to keep pace with superior competition, but it also makes them vulnerable to just a few good plays from lesser opponents.
7. Duke is always overrated. Just kidding. But they’re fun to hate. They’re actually very good and are generally a pretty good bet to win a few games. Just know this: They’ve been a 2-seed in four previous tourneys and made the Sweet 16 only once in those years.
8. Everything you know — including what we’re telling you right now — is wrong. Your brother could win it all by making predictions based on the color of Lego blocks his son picks. Your boss could win it even though she’s an NFL fan who thinks that Duke can’t possibly be good because there are no Dukies in the NFL. The office geek could win it based on what schools kinda sound like his favorite sci-fi heroes. (Marquette’s probably his pick.) Use your own system and have fun.
Oh, but don’t pick Duke. Everyone will hate you if you win.
— Kevin Glass is the managing editor of Townhall.com. Christopher Regal is a graduate student at George Mason University.