Bracketology 101: Your Pool Cheat Sheet

Experts weigh in on how to beat your bosses in the bracket

By Caitlin Millat
|  Tuesday, Mar 16, 2010  |  Updated 10:16 AM EDT
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So you're in the office NCAA tournament pool, poised to predict outcomes of games between schools you've never heard of.

We've already broken down the cubicle politics that go into the bracket-filling game, from intimidating your colleagues into submission to convincing the guy next to you that you're the one to beat. But for the basketball newbies among us, making smart picks can boil down to whose name sounds the coolest (Gonzaga to win) or whose mascot is the funniest (Go Spiders!).

For all the young'uns in the bracket game, here's expert testimony on who could make a Final Four run this year:

  • The consensus pick: Kansas, the overall No. 1 seed with a history of NCAA tourney success and a legacy of NBA greats. The Jayhawks have topped coaches' and press polls throughout the season, dominated conference and league play, and repeatedly stomped on No. 2 seeds like Kansas State. "If that's not a powerhouse, what is?" the Washington Post columnist Matt Swenson writes.
     
  • The freshman prodigy: Kentucky's John Wall, the freshman guard with the resolve of a senior carrying his team on his back, could bring the No. 1 seed to Final Four glory, the Washington Examiner's Rick Snider writes. Besides Wall, the team has a stacked roster that includes freshmen DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe, Snider writes: "This seems like the best NBA team in waiting since North Carolina won the 2005 national championship."
     
  • The dark horse: West Virginia, the team who came from behind to win the Big East championship and a coveted No. 2 seed in the tourney. The "deep, rugged and athletic" Mountaineers are one of the five contenders for the title, Pat Forde writes for ESPN.com -- count No. 1 seeds Duke, Syracuse, Kentucky and Kansas in as well -- because of their scrappy, fight-till-you-win attitude. "In a tournament that could feature a lot of missed shots, those who can collect the misses for easy baskets could have a major advantage," he writes.
     
  • The underdog: Baylor, loaded with the talent and experience of three upperclassmen, could rise to the top of a weak region to make it to the Final Four, Jon Schuman writes for the Bleacher Report. The No. 3 seed is paired with the weakest one seed, Duke, and a shaky No. 2, Villanova, Schuman writes, which "all adds up to a run to the Final Four for Coach Drew and the Bears."
     
  • The sleeper: Texas, the former powerhouse that at one point this season was picked to make a serious Final Four play. The No. 8 seed has an easy first-round teammate -- Wake Forest -- and should have a doable path to its likely regional competitor, Kentucky, Matt Norlander blogs for Yahoo! Sports. "What subtly jumps to mind here: TEXAS HAS THE TALENT TO BEAT KENTUCKY," Norlander writes. "That's what we can't forget."

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