True confession time.
I'm a Closet Bracketologist. Have been for more than 30 years, dating back to my early days at the Dallas Morning News when my buddy, Steve Wieberg of USA Today were putting together brackets long before it became a cottage industry.
Over the years, I got pretty good at it. Three years ago, I got 67 of 68, two years ago, I hit the jack pot and nailed all 68. Last year I had 66 of 68.
But full disclosure here. Any moderate college basketball fan should be able to get at least 62 of 68.
Let me explain. Everyone has to be right on 32 picks because 32 spots are given to the winners of the conference tournaments, which leaves 36 at large slots.
The first part of that process is easy. Start with the super conferences--SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, ACC. Give each of those leagues 5 at large spots, which means you now have 16 spots to fill. Take the Big East and give them 3 slots, which cuts it down to 13. Normally the Pac=12 would be a multi bid league, but it having a bad season this year, so give them only one bid. That cuts the at-large list down to 12.
Now go back to the four Super powers and give them two more spots each.
That gives you 64 teams without even thinking. Factor in upsets such as Saint Mary's beating Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference final and another bid to either the Big East, Mountain West or Atlantic 10 and
you should have 65 or 66 teams, meaning you only have to fill two slots.
Let's look at a few of the "myths'' concerning bracketology. The biggest is that the committee counts the number of teams from each league as it goes along.
I took part in one of the NCAA's fantasy brackets several years ago, I also talked with several NCAA and college officials, including former Selection Chairmen.
Conference affiliation for the at-large teams does not matter. It is match play, each school is paired against another school and their records are broken down.
One school advances and one school is eliminated until the field is complete.
This year's controversy will probably involve Belmont, which was beaten in the Ohio Valley Conference title by Murray State. Murray State received the NCAA bid, Belmont is on the bubble, despite a 16-2 conference record and an overall record of 25-5.
Yet teams such as the Big 12's Oklahoma and Texas are both regarded as more likely to receive bids, despite having sub .500 conference records.
The argument used is that if Belmont were in the Big 12, it would probably be only 9-9 in the conference, and if Oklahoma were in the Ohio Valley, the Sooner would also win 25 games.
Well, here's the counter to that argument. Belmont passes the "eye test'' , it looks like an NCAA tournament team. And if Belmont went 9-9 in the Big 12 and had an 18-12 overall record, it would be a "lock'' for a bid.
There are also debates about SEC teams such as Alabama and Florida and Big Ten teams such as Ohio State and Minnesota.
Another mid-major team is UNC-Greensboro, which lost to Wofford in the Southern Conference tournament. It also looks like a "tournament'' worthy tournament.
The key to success in bracketology is not picking the field, but seeing how many teams you have seeded on the same line as the selection committee (or within one line) and how many exact match ups you can get.
Below is my Friday bracket, which will be updated until all the conference tournaments are finished on Sunday afternoon.
EAST REGIONAL (Washington D.C.)
16 Norfolk State/FDU winner
12 Saint Mary's
11 Arizona State/Belmont
10 Utah State
SOUTH REGIONAL ( Louisville, Ky.)
At Salt Lake City
5 Virginia Tech
3 Texas Tech
14 Georgia State
2 North Carolina
15 Abilene Christian
MIDWEST REGIONAL (Kansas City)
9 Seton Hall
At Salt Lake City
6 Kansas State
11 Temple/St. John's winner
14 Northern Kentucky
10 NC State
2 Michigan State
15 Gardner Webb
WEST REGIONAL (Anaheim, Calif.)
At Salt Lake City
16 North Dakota State/Prairie View winner
8 Mississippi State
5 Iowa State
13 New Mexico State
11 Murray State
10 Ohio State