No matter how much midmajor research and RPI analysis you do, it's almost inevitable you will want to feed your bracket to a paper shredder at some point.
There's really no such thing as a bracket brainiac.
Every year we hear about the household parakeet that pecks out the winners. Or an 85-year-old grandma who hasn't watched basketball since the days of peach baskets with a perfect bracket. Or the nerdy tech guy in the office who never watched a game and employed some logarithm to figure out the Final Four.
Still, every year we slap down a couple of bucks for an office pool, plot our strategies and think we have it all figured out.
Here are a few methods to help those so bold to use pens, not pencils, complete their 2012 bracket:
Going chalk: Every season, we roll our eyes when we see someone pick all four No. 1 seeds to reach the Final Four. Really going out on a limb, right?
It's actually smart. Out of the last 27 champions, 16 have been No. 1 seeds. Last season's Final Four was only one of three ever not to include a No. 1 seed.
Then again, only in 2008 did all four No. 1 seeds appear.
There are perfectly good arguments for this season's field of top teams: Kentucky, Syracuse, North Carolina and Michigan State.
First, let's look at these proven coaches. Michigan State's Tom Izzo, Syracuse's Jim Boeheim and North Carolina's Roy Williams all have a championship ring. Kentucky's John Calipari has taken three teams, including last season's Wildcats, to the Final Four. (Two of the runs were vacated because of NCAA violations.)
Despite dominating seasons, Kentucky, Syracuse and North Carolina all look vulnerable entering their first games with losses in their conference tournaments.
Syracuse looks especially vulnerable now that center Fab Melo is out for the tournament due to eligibility issues. (The Orange lost their only regular season game to Notre Dame without him.) North Carolina could have its own issues depending on John Henson's healing wrist, which caused him to miss the last two games.
If you're going for a team that has warmed up at the right time, pick Michigan State, the Big Ten tournament winner.
Rooting for rivalries: Everyone loves a juicy plot. Fill out your bracket as a soap opera script writer if you love drama.
Kentucky could meet Indiana in the South Region's Sweet 16, setting up a rematch from this season. The Hoosiers were the only team in the regular season to beat the Wildcats, prompting a storming of the Assembly Hall court and marking Indiana's comeback official.
Kentucky also could meet Duke in the Elite Eight, conjuring memories of the classic 1992 East Region final overtime showdown that ended with Christian Laettner's heroics.
North Carolina's Williams has faced his former Kansas team before but it would add a little intrigue to see the teams meet in the Midwest Region's Elite Eight.
The first Final Four in New Orleans since 2003 also could feature a memory-lane game. Eight years ago, Syracuse and Kansas met there in the final. Carmelo Anthony's Orange won. They could meet this year in the Final Four.
Cinderella stories: The key to a successful bracket is to identify -- aka randomly pointing and picking -- the tournament surprises.
Who will be this season's Virginia Commonwealth? Look to the South's No. 12 seed where you'll find ... VCU. The Rams had a lot of turnover off last season's Final Four group, but coach Shaka Smart and leader Brad Burgess remain, as does their pressure defense.
Is there anyone hotter entering the tournament than No. 14 St. Bonaventure's Andrew Nicholson, who has scored at least 19 points in the last 11 games with six double-doubles in that span? The Atlantic-10 tournament champion has won seven of the last eight games, but has a rough second-round matchup in the East against sizzling No. 3 seed Florida State.
In the Midwest, No. 8 Creighton is deadly accurate, making 56 percent of its shots, including 43 percent of 3-pointers. Forward Doug McDermott might be a household name by April.
No. 12 seed Long Beach State, in the West, is experienced, battle-tested (having played eight tournament teams) and star-powered with point guard Casper Ware.
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