|The Page 2 bracket guidelines|
By Eric Neel & Dan Shanoff
Page 2 columnists
You've checked out the team pages. You've scanned Page 2's "What's Hot, What's Not" List. Before you strike Bic to bracket (and, like crosswords, no real fan uses a pencil), be sure to check out this list of entry-sheet DO's and DON'Ts.
DO shower and eat a hefty, proper meal before you get started, because it's all Taco Bell, pit stink and greasy locks once you put pen to paper.
DON'T forget to schedule an out-of-office "meeting" from noon to 5 p.m. ET this Thursday and Friday.
DO pick a team you despise to make the Sweet 16 and a team you love to bow out in the first round -- little thing called hedging your bets.
DON'T pick your favorite team to win it all.
DO lay a little lettuce on the line. Not much, mind you, just enough to stay focused and hungry.
DON'T try to write off those pool losses on your taxes.
DO go with your first instincts.
DON'T pick your mom's alma mater (say, Vermont) just because that's her first instinct.
DO give your completed bracket a name, the way chess players name moves: The Spokane Opening. The Pitino Defense. The Saluki Gambit.
DON'T bother finding out what a "Saluki" is.
DO let your dog, your baby or a coin-flip determine your picks in the 8/9 games. (Bonus points if you let the dog flip the coin.)
DON'T pat yourself on the back for picking a 10 over a 7.
DO organize a pool with old friends from college, high school, the chain gang or the church choir, because, you know, the game is here to bring us together.
DON'T let in anyone nicknamed "Lucky," "Knuckles" or "The Fixer."
DO call your friends the minute you finish filling out your bracket and make stuff up about your picks just to keep them flustered and uncertain, with lines like: "I just have a real good feeling about Wagner."
DON'T share your actual "upset specials."
DO make a list ahead of time of the games you absolutely cannot miss. Also make a list of the games that are so crucial to the success of your bracket that you cannot bear to watch them.
DON'T forget to practice the classic at-work "ALT-TAB" between ESPN.com scoreboard pages and your dummied-up spreadsheets.
DO ask yourself -- really now -- is Dayton a 4-seed? Is Marquette a 3? Pitt a 2?
DON'T fear the chalk.
DO remember the classic 12-5 upset. (DO choose Butler.)
DON'T psyche yourself out staring at seedings.
DO test your state of readiness with this little quiz: Sam Houston's mascot? Austin Peay's? (No peeking. Points off for spelling errors.)
DON'T pick based on cool nickname, however.
DO hitch your star to Coach K, who is going to be working the always-powerful "we-don't-get-no-respect" underdog angle this year for -- weird as this sounds -- Duke.
DON'T fall into the "It's GOTTA be Roy Williams' year" Trap ... yet again.
DO come ready to ignore turnover average, strength of schedule, and senior leadership to make a handful of can't-explain-it picks.
DON'T use the "Duane-from-'What's Happening'" theory (team with coolest uniforms) to make picks.
DO say "IUPUI" as many times as you can between now and Friday. Say it out loud, quickly, and with a sly grin; say it the way you'd say "nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah," like you're mocking someone; say it like it stands for something, like it's a curse you're putting on your enemies, like it has some secret meaning only you understand.
DON'T be afraid to shamelessly jump from bandwagon to bandwagon, as your picks quickly bust.
DO know your history: Dereck Whittenburg -- yes, that Dereck Whittenburg -- is the Wagner head coach.
DON'T listen to your co-worker with the gambling problem.
DO root for BYU to make it to the second weekend, which literally busts the bracket.
DON'T actually pick BYU to make it to the second weekend.
DO feel for Troy Bell.
DON'T feel for Bobby Knight.
DO pick Arizona to win it all, because everybody else in your pool is swimming with Kentucky.
DON'T you think Ashley Judd sightings make a Kentucky title-run a lot more universally enjoyable?
Dan Shanoff and Eric Neel are Page 2 columnists. Be sure to check out Shanoff's "Daily Quickie" special-edition LIVE Quickie on Thursday and Friday afternoons.