Rules for completing your bracket   

Updated: March 17, 2009, 8:22 AM ET

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Before you officially fill out your brackets, follow these simple scientific rules:

• Don't think with your heart. Let facts and however much money your pool is worth serve as your guide.

• Know which teams can play "panic ball" the best.

• Make decisions based on coaches, not teams. The coach should carry a lot of weight. They don't become legendary or keep their jobs for no reason.

• Do not let the fact only three (Louisville, Memphis and Duke) of the top 10 teams in the country made it to their conference championships go without notice.

• Choose athleticism early, vacate late. Extremely athletic teams always seem to make noise in the tournament's first two weeks. Then once the Final Four is here, they fall off. Example: Mississippi State.

• Know that RPI ratings are overrated at this stage in the game.

• Just because three teams from the Big East got top seeds, don't think it's going to be 1985 -- when three teams from the conference made the Final Four -- all over again.

• Know the difference between teams that are good and teams that are playing good ball.

• Know the difference between teams that choke and teams that simply can't close out games.

• Listen to Fran Fraschilla on radio shows throughout the week. Follow his advice. Then fill out your bracket.

• Don't seek out advice from anyone who just started watching college basketball last week when the conference tournaments began.

• Don't take advice from anyone who said, "I sucked in my pool last year."

• Never be loyal to a conference. Or a cheerleading squad.

• Remember: Eventually free throw percentages don't lie. (Think Memphis last year.)

• Know that there will be a 4 versus 13 upset. Maybe two.

• Only take one risk on a 14 over a 3. (Think Stephen F. Austin over Syracuse.)

• Treat ESPN.com's tournament coverage like a bible.

• Don't pick an HBCU upset.

• Don't listen to "One Shining Moment" while you are filling out your bracket.

• When looking at a team's major losses, look to see how many points they lost each game by, who was in foul trouble early in those games, and who was injured.

• Create your own injury report for each team.

• Don't think Ty Lawson is healthy. He's not. And he won't be 100 percent throughout the entire tournament.

• When it comes to Tyreke Evans, think Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose.

• Realize that at some point Gonzaga has to make a Final Four.

• They call them mid-majors for a reason.

• No team that did not discuss winning a national championship early in the season has won a national championship. Do your in-house research.

• Call CBS announcer Gus Johnson and see which games he's calling. Upsets seem to follow him.

• Since 1977 only 10 schools without the color blue in their uniforms have won the title.

• Only three schools with "State" in their names have ever won the championship (Michigan State, North Carolina State and Ohio State; Oklahoma State won two titles when it was known as Oklahoma A&M).

• Really, really, really know the difference between great college players and players who will be great in the NBA. Not many great NBA players have NCAA rings.

• Pay attention to teams that mentally fell apart in close games during conference tournaments.

• Look for teams with guards with composure as the clock winds down. Examples: A.J. Abrams (Texas), Tyrese Rice (Boston College), Sherron Collins (Kansas), Jon Scheyer (Duke), James Harden (Arizona State), Eric Maynor (VCU), Greivis Vasquez (Maryland), Jerome Randle (Cal).

• As overrated as you might want to think the Big 10 is, in seven of the past 12 years a team from the Big 10 has made it to the Final Four (and two made it in 2005, 2000 and 1999).

• Know which Power Conference (conferences with more than four teams in the tournament) teams can be timid and which feel they have nothing to lose. This distinction is very important.

• Know which teams have that one player who can possibly win the whole tournament by himself.

• Know each team's opponents' field goal percentage and each team's opponents' free throw attempts.

• Use this as a motto: Got Seniors?

• If all else fails and you still can't make your bracket make sense, find one prognosticator, one of college basketball's brilliant journalistic minds, and follow everything they say and write to the letter. They are rarely wrong. And if by some strange illogical twist of fate your bracket is busted by Monday, you have someone else to place blame on besides yourself.

• Lastly, second-guess everything.

Scoop Jackson is a columnist for ESPN.com.


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