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How to fill out a losing bracket

Shaka Smart, Sparty and Tom Crean all have plenty of reasons for you to back them in the NCAA tournament. And a few reasons not to, as well. USA TODAY Sports

Your life sucks.

Your life sucks because, every March, your boss just has to win the office pool.

If he loses, he starts handing out working Sundays. If he wins, he starts handing out drinking Fridays. So you have to lose. Luckily, we are experts at this.

Follow our time-tested bracket-blowing rules and your bracket will have more red marks than Dennis Rodman's SATs. After all, what can possibly go right? …

*Pick alphabetically. The first team, alphabetically, has won it only once -- Arizona in 1997.

*Pick reverse alphabetically. The last team, alphabetically, to win it was Utah in 1944.

*Pick all No. 1 seeds. Only once has the Final Four been all No. 1 seeds, in 2008.

*Pick no No. 1 seeds. That's happened only three times, in 1980, 2006 and 2011.

*If you insist on picking No. 1 seeds, dump them early. You can't help but lose. No. 1 seeds win 87 percent of their round of 64 and round of 32 games, so this will turn your bracket into a wad in no time.

*Pick against the Jesuits. They have five schools in the dance -- Gonzaga, Saint Louis, Creighton, Marquette, Georgetown -- and none lower than a No. 7 seed. Plus, they're coming off the election of the first Jesuit pope in history.

*Pick one of the saints, Saint Louis or Saint Mary. No team with "Saint" in its name has made the final since St. John's in 1952.


*Do a ton of research.

*Do no research.

*Always pick No. 5 seeds over No. 12 seeds. That will turn your bracket into birdcage lining. No. 12 seeds win about 40 percent of games vs. No. 5 seeds. In fact …

*Pick a No. 5 seed to win it all. Every champion since No. 6 Kansas in 1988 has been a No. 4 seed or better.

*Pick against the Harbaugh mojo. You had both Harbaugh brothers in the Super Bowl -- Jim and John -- and Indiana coach Tom Crean married their sister, Joani. This year is absolutely a Harbaughnious coming together of cosmic forces, which is why you should stay away from the whole clan.

*Pick a team with double-digit losses. Nobody has won the whole thing with 10 or more losses since that 1988 Kansas team.

*Fill out your form while wearing Rollie Massimino's winning 1985 sweater. Prepare to itch.

*Go by seeds, not betting lines. This is why you take No. 6 UCLA over No. 11 Minnesota, even though Las Vegas makes the Gophers a two- to three-point favorite.

*Pick a team full of lunch-bucket no-name guys who sacrifice individual glory for the good of the team. That never works. Of the past 28 champions, 27 have had at least one All-American on their team, according to pregame.com. For that matter …

*Pick the team with the nation's leading scorer on it. No individual scoring champion has won the national title since 1952, when Clyde Lovellette did it for Kansas. You couldn't do it this year if you tried. Erick Green's Virginia Tech team didn't even make the field.

*Be absolutely sure this is the year a men's 16 beats a 1.

*Pick based on Nobel Prize winners at the school. By rank, the top four seeds would be Harvard (75), Cal (71), Illinois (26) and Michigan (19). You're welcome.

*Bet on UCLA coach Ben Howland. You'll be happy.

*Bet against VCU coach Shaka Smart. You'll be happier.

(*If you happen to run UCLA athletics, dump Howland and hire Smart. You'll be happiest.)

*Put all your cheese on Wisconsin. Those big farm boys play sensible, fundamental, box-out basketball, which means they get run out of the gym when the city kids show up. Only one Wisconsin team has made it past the Elite Eight since the end of World War II, the era of their current haircut style.

*Switch all of your picks at the last second.

*Go with your initial instincts. Only four initialed teams have won it all -- UNLV, UCLA, UTEP and CCNY (which went on to be caught in the worst point-shaving scandal in NCAA history the next year).

*Pick a team with a human mascot. Only the Michigan State Spartans and Syracuse, back when its mascot was the Orangemen, have won it all since 1990.

*Pick a mascot so wimpy your therapist could whip it. What's wimpier than a Saint Louis Billiken? The "jovial fellow" came from a poem, according to the school's website, and got so hot 100-something years ago that people turned it into "dolls, marshmallow candies, pickle forks, and hood ornaments." Oh, definitely.

*Go with the guy who says he's got a "system."

*Fill out your bracket and then gloat.

*Pick teams based on past glories. Take Butler, which had two straight finals appearances recently. Who cares whether it's not really that good this year? Looks like you put some thought into it, at least.

*Pick a football powerhouse. They always choke at the end. Both Michigan and Ohio State are 1-4 in championship games.

*Pick anything with the word "South" before its name. None has ever made the Final Four.

*Listen to your brother-in-law.

*Don't work blue. The past nine champions have had some kind of blue in their uniform. Go with purple. No team in purple has ever cut down the nets, thank god. Or stick with that sickly DayGlo green Notre Dame is running around in.

And, lastly …

*Do not let your mom fill it out. She'll pick Miami because it has LeBron James and then the Hurricanes will win it all. Guaranteed.