Every year around this time, you regret not paying more attention to college basketball. Every year around this time, when you’re staring down at a blank bracket wondering who the hell these teams are, you regret not filling your mind with all the NCAA hoops knowledge that would surely guide your hand in filling out a winning pool entry.
If only you spent the winter becoming a March Madness master like Dick Vitale. Have no fear. He's here to get you up to speed before your bracket locks on Thursday.
"The tournament gets everyone involved, even if you haven’t watched basketball all year," Vitale says. "Grandma, grandpa, everybody out there is picking a team, wearing a sweatshirt, and cheering."
Experts are calling this year's tournament the deepest in ages, and nobody, including Vitale, would be surprised to see one of the top seeds fall early because the field has so many dangerous teams. Go crazy with your upsets this year.
"It is a guessing game," Vitale says.
Dickie V, who is taking on legendary astronaut Buzz Aldrin in the Allstate March Mayhem bracket challenge, spoke with Men's Journal right before he turned in his own bracket. In addition to this handy field guide that will help you win your office pool, here's his sage advice and the strategy Vitale uses to make his picks every year:
"It can control the ball and not turn it over,” Vitale says.
Teams that have this: Michigan State, North Carolina, Kansas, Virginia, and Oklahoma.
A Three-Point shooter
"Someone who can give you momentum with the three."
The five best three-point-shooting teams this year: Michigan State, Kansas, Oklahoma, SMU, and Indiana.
Teams With a Superstar
"A guy who can make big plays at the end of the game," Vitale says.
Teams that have one: Oklahoma (Buddy Hield), Michigan State (Denzel Valentine), Virginia (Malcolm Brogdon), and Providence (Kris Dunn).
"It becomes vital at the end," Vitale says.
The two best tournament teams from the foul line this season: UConn and Villanova
"If you have those five factors, you have a formula for success," Vitale says.
Dickie V’s Sleepers
Arizona and Chattanooga
Vitale's Final Four
Oklahoma, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan State
Michigan State over Oklahoma
That should get you started. You can fill in your Final Four and work your way around the bracket, making sure to predict some upsets, pick a fun sleeper like Green Bay (hey, they play tough D) and remember that 12 seeds fare very well against 5s in the first round.
So there. You didn't have to waste your winter watching college hoops. Now you know everything you need to fill out a winning, or at least not-so-sucky, bracket.
“There’s so much unpredictability this year,” Vitale says. “There’s not much difference between a 1 seed and a 4 seed.”