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Three points to consider in making March Madness picks

Jacked Up Sports

By Jack Reyering, For The Miami Student

Picking brackets is both an art and a science.

All major sports news outlets have "bracketologists" - experts in the field of picking teams that will make the tournament and go the furthest during March.

But once the field is set, it doesn't take an expert to pick a great bracket. Why do you think every year we see SportsCenter interview a random six-year-old kid who picked a perfect bracket through the first three weeks of the tournament?

You can take your mother's advice and pick the team with the cutest mascot or the best uniform color scheme. Or, you can also heed my advice as to how to pick the best bracket - some Jack-etology, if you will.

First, college basketball is all about coaching.

The best coaches are the ones who can guide their teams through the field in tournament-style basketball.

When it comes to picking your bracket, look for the coaches with the best record in conference and NCAA tournaments. It's often tempting to pick the teams that have the best record or the most athletic players, but history shows that it's all about coaching.

Names like Duke, Michigan State, North Carolina and Kentucky should be circled on your bracket. When it comes to games late in the tournament, these coaches know how to win.

Second, the NCAA tournament is all about matchups.

In the grand scheme of things, if you hope to win a pool of thirty brackets, the first two rounds don't matter that much. After each round, you want to have all your teams from two rounds down the road. Ideally, that means after the first round, you still have all of your Sweet Sixteen teams alive, and after the second round, you have all your Elite Eight teams, and so on.

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With this in mind, think about the potential matchups down the road. If two of your Sweet Sixteen teams played in the regular season, research the result of that game. Think about which team has been hotter heading into tournament play. Consider the coaching record and tenure.

Third, another point to consider is how hot each team is heading into the tournament.

By the end of the year, every team hopes to be playing its best basketball. The regular season is not only a time for a team to build a tournament résumé, but also a time to sort out problems. Some teams will figure this out, others won't. Pick the teams that are hot at the end of the regular season.

A good way to gage this aspect is by watching the conference tournament. Especially in leagues that play a round-robin schedule (meaning each team plays each other twice), the league tournaments are a good measuring stick to see how teams address the problems encountered during the regular season.

The conference tournament is also a good test of how teams respond to neutral court, tournament-style basketball. Teams will be playing a high number of games in a short period of time. Fatigue will set in and the winning team will be the one who can overcome the strains of both high competition level and high reps.

This is the time of year in which fans must pay attention more than ever. Every team that has the potential to win the tournament is fighting for the optimal seed in the tournament. Other teams are still trying to separate themselves from everyone else and catch the eye of the selection committee.

The time to start thinking about your bracket is now.

Take this advice and rake in your winnings when you win your pools.

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