So, March Madness starts today, or something, and you may have been asked to fill out a bracket or be part of an office pool thanks to some zealous coworkers or friends who are alumni of the same university as you. You may not be all that into the idea, but there’s a chance to win a lot of money with little effort, or maybe you just want to run away with the pool victory to get your friends to stop talking about their alma mater like they’re still in college.
And isn’t that how it always is? The person who knows the least about the competitors, who has studied the least amount of Bracketology and whose brain has not yet been fried by sports punditry, ends up winning the thing? There are a number of strategies for filling out a bracket with the hope of accidentially winning—here are a few personal favorites. Good luck. (Note: None will probably work. None. But whatever, it’s just a game or whatever.)
The 50/50: This one takes way too much effort. Just flip a coin for every matchup. There’s a chance you’ll at least get a handful right. Or who knows? You could run away with the whole thing. Someone had to land on Norfolk State last year somehow.
The Pantone: Another common strategy for the casual bracketeer is to go by whichever team’s color scheme you prefer. For example, take the East Region opening matchup between the 7-seed Illinois Fighting Illini and the 10-seed Colorado Buffaloes. The Illinois colors are blue and orange, which are occasionally painful to look at together in a sea of fans. CU’s black and gold are a frequent collegiate pairing, but less of an eyesore.
The Do Everything Nate Silver Says: Not always as effective for sports as it is for politics, but hey, if that’s your thing.
The Hollywood Squares: This requires a little background knowledge of schools or some fervent Wikipedia-ing, but there’s always the route of picking the schools that have alumni whose body of work you enjoy. Love The Black Keys? The Akron Zips are your team. Love the blown-glass sculptures of Dale Chihuly? Go with his alma mater, the University of Wisconsin. Sports Illustrated did a list of these, but not only is the ranking completely flawed because come on in whose universe is Zach Galifianakis cooler than Gene Kelly, Steve James, Christopher Meloni or Kristen Wiig, and Gary Busey cooler than Kurt Vonnegut, and as an alumna of the #1 ranked school on said list (M-I-Z), they missed a pretty golden opportunity for gratuitous Jon Hamm.
The Wishful Thinking: Just pick what you want to happen because who cares it’s sports? You want your alma mater to take it all? Write it down. Thousands of other people are doing the same thing. You might be right. We’ll all forget about it in like a month.
The Tarantino: If you casually follow college basketball but maybe didn’t pay attention this year, this is an unrealistic but someone satisfying strategy. Your team got screwed in a key matchup in the past and has the opportunity this year to set things right? Play out your ultimate revenge fantasy. Want to take a longtime rival down in the final or see a mortal enemy’s team get their hearts broken? Put it on the bracket, feel a hint of catharsis.
The Press Autofill, Ignore It and Do Things Outside: Always a solid strategy.