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Not a fan? Great! Here's how to win your bracket

  • The method to solving the Madness has little to do with hoops
  • Indiana and Lousiville may want to add blue to their jerseys
  • Animal mascots popular in Final Four. Again, sorry Hoosiers
Not a fan? Great! Here's how to win your bracket

Louisville is the number-one overall seed and Big East champs. None of which matters because their uniforms aren’t blue.

There's a reason that Janice from accounting and Paul the crystal-wearing sci-fi nerd win your bracket pool every year.

It's because they know something you don't. Specifically, they know that you know too much and they don't know enough. This -- above all formulas -- is the perfect bracket strategy.

In a landscape full of RPI, BPI, OOWP, SOS, PVA and other acronyms which have no earthly reason to exist other than to force you into an unending cycle of statistical over-analysis, the fantastic and liberating truth is you don't need any of that. You just need to know that schools west of the Mississippi don't do well and those with blue jerseys do.

For the millions of us today who will be, or have been pressured into, filling out an NCAA Tournament bracket despite not watching more than a few minutes (if that) of college hoops all year, this is all the 100% statistic-and-basketball-IQ-free information you need to Be The Janice.

Team Colors

"I like Albany because I really like purple!" Ooooh, sorry. We're still not quite at a place where we can endorse this most popular type of slacker-logic. However, we're really close. Picking a team based on its colors is not a bad idea -- so long as you know which colors to look for.

In the last 10 Final Fours, blue has been part of the color scheme for 26 of the 40 teams. Dark blue (like Duke or Kansas) for 19, light blue (like North Carolina) for seven. Other colors in Final Four fashion include yellow (nine) and orange (six). But don't get too cute here; stick with blue.

Every national champion since 2004 has had blue in their color scheme, and the last five Final Fours have had multiple teams with blue in their team colors. Sorry Indiana and/or Louisville.


They are so, so much more than furries fodder and an opportunity for undersized undergrads to suit up for the basketball team. As an indicator of NCAA tourney success, team mascots are in fact amazingly, totally... well, mediocre. For a while there, teams with big cats (like Kentucky) were on a Final Four roll. Ditto the dogs -- Butler, UConn, etc. But nothing has really stuck.

Though in the timeless (?) debate of Human Mascot vs. Animal Mascot, the animals have a clear edge. Sorry, Sparty. Eight of the last 10 Final Fours have included multiple teams with animal mascots. The most popular are dogs and birds, which have each been represented six times in the last 10 years.

So does that mean we all have a big, green light to pick the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles for the Final Four? Absolutely not.

Also, speaking of mascots: Middle Tennessee State.


If your first thought when you read "seeds" was that this would be something about plants, flowers or farming -- congratulations. You are well on your way toward winning your bracket pool.

While in theory, these little number markers next to each team's name should provide some clarity on who's the better team, what they're really best at is helping us judge the magnitude of upset and which type of reaction we should hammer out in caps lock each time a lower-seeded team springs a win.

7 over 10? "SURPRISING!"  14 over 3? "OH $%*#, MY BRACKET JUST 'SPLODED!!"

Upsets may be common in the early rounds, but when the Final Four rolls around, it's usually just the favorites left standing. Thirty of the last 40 Final Four slots have been filled by 1-, 2- or 3-seeds. Only three of those slots have gone to teams seeded lower than 5, and five of the last six champs have been 1-seeds.

So get cute with your picks early if you want, but restore order when it counts. With one weird exception: No 2-seed has won the national title since UConn in 2004. That's despite 10 2-seeds reaching the Final Four since 2003. Ohio State and Duke fans, you may selectively delete those last two sentences from your memories.

Location, location, location

It really is everything. Especially if your school is west of the Mississippi River and not named Kansas or UCLA. Those blue-blood hoops powers are the only schools west of the Mississippi to have reached the Final Four since 2004.

This is obviously because everybody out West is horrible at basketball.

Or it may also have to do with the vast majority of Division I schools being located in the Eastern and Central time zones. Still, if you're thinking big thoughts for 1-seed Gonzaga, 3-seed New Mexico or 5-seed Oklahoma State, don't.

Follow Jonathan Anker on Twitter @JonFromHLN

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