THE SPORTS DOCTOR- Bracketed: Which method will win the big bucks?

Campus of dreaded bracket-buster Gonzaga

Gonzaga— grrr. Gonzaga! Gonzaga is back.

If you've ever filled out an NCAA bracket, you know Gonzaga– along with Xavier and sometimes Villanova– will most likely be responsible for your untimely ruination. No matter how well you do in the first and even the second rounds, no matter whether you predict the entire East and South, win or lose, Gonzaga will eventually destroy every bit of success you've managed to accrue. 

I hope you took that into consideration as you jumped headfirst into your bracket last Sunday.

It's that time again– time for you to ante up $1 or $10 or even $50 of your hard-earned money and pray you don't end up looking more ignorant than everyone else in your office and/or fraternity/study group/gym/book club. 

If you're like I am, you're hoping Gonzaga loses in the first round to Florida State, their early elimination making the stack of cards on which your bracket is built a little sturdier. If you're wondering how people fill out brackets, here's a lesson.

Are you a studier? They exist, people who don't fill out their bracket until their homework is done. When Tennessee and Kansas meet in the Elite Eight (assuming Maryland doesn't take out the Jayhawks in the Sweet Sixteen– which is a possibility if Greivis Vasquez can keep his head), will Tennessee win? 

If you're a studier, you know Kentucky beat the Vols by 29 points in the regular season, so Tennessee has little chance of beating the Mid-West's #1, Kansas. Of course, Kansas will never face Tennessee because Georgetown will defeat them in the second round before going on to lose to Ohio State, who barely manages to squeak by Georgia Tech–

Maybe you're a history buff and have no doubt that Duke will beat Villanova in the Elite Eight, but that the Final Four game between the Blue Devils and Kentucky will be a doozy. It doesn't matter if Kansas or Ohio State wins the Mid-West, or Syracuse or BYU wins the West, it's obviously of little consequence one way or the other. 

The South and East are the Big Dance's historic winners. Everybody knows that. The only real question is whether ODU will put Notre Dame in its place.

Some bracketeers are purely reactionary, choosing their winners on gut instinct alone. As they look over an empty bracket, certain names jump out, and that's it. 

New Mexico, for instance. New Mexico looks good. I don't know anything about New Mexico other than that they looked really enthusiastic during a Sunday afternoon interview, and Coach Steve Alford seems like a really nice confident guy. But I get the feeling New Mexico will beat West Virginia, then lose to Kentucky in the Elite Eight. They'll go far, New Mexico; I just feel it.

Perhaps you're one of the millions of people with a fail-safe system. Granted, these systems are often built on superstition, but they are systems nonetheless. 

Does any of this sound familiar? There will be no team worse than a #5 seed in the Final Four. There will always be one #5 seed vs. a #12 seed upset (Cornell over Temple, perhaps?). There can be no more than four upsets per day for the first round, then no more than two after that. The Final Four cannot be all #1 seeds, ever.

Most people incorporate a mix of these methods when filling out brackets. We study a little, mostly teams from our own conference, and we know a little NCAA history, such as Pittsburgh was the one to watch last year. We know ESPN says Tennessee has been underperforming, but we really feel they can get it together against Georgetown. But we also know that if one #1 seed can't make it to the Final Four, it's most likely going to be Duke this year. 

That's how you do it, in case you were wondering: it's pretty straightforward. Of course, you can't forget personal bias, which means West Virginia automatically loses, and Vanderbilt beats Syracuse in the Sweet Sixteen...


Juanita Giles lives in Keysville where she makes videos and updates her Sports Doctor site.