BRACKETOLOGY 101; Picking 64 Hoops Winners an Exact Science? Uh, Not Exactly

Article excerpt

Byline: ALEX ABRAMS, The Times-Union

Today is Tuesday, which means that by now, you should have revised your NCAA Tournament bracket at least three times.

"From grandmothers to nine-year-olds, from school teachers to mailmen to sportscasters, everybody is trying to figure out the puzzle that is the 65-team [tournament] field," said ESPN college basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla.

There could be even more revisions by the time the first of 63 NCAA basketball games is played Thursday. (That's Kentucky vs. Eastern Kentucky at 12:20 p.m., if you're scoring at home.)

But you don't have to know as much about college basketball as Dick Vitale to win your office pool. Heck, it doesn't even matter if you didn't watch a single game this season.

Don't drive yourself crazy by staring at your bracket, trying figure out which team might have the best chance of being crowned the champion on April 4.

Sometimes, it's best to just go with your gut instinct. And if that doesn't work, you could always fill out your bracket using several unorthodox methods that have proven to work.

Did you ever date someone who graduated from the University of New Mexico? If so, then take the Lobos to upset Villanova in the first round.

Think a wolf would win in a fight against a longhorn if they met in the wild? Then take Nevada to beat Texas.

And have you ever lived in Arizona, been a fan of Arizona or even once had a layover in Phoenix? If the answer is yes, pick the Wildcats to make the Final Four.

Sound weird? Of course, it is. But it just might help you win your office pool.

Every so often, some lucky fan is able to crack the tournament's code using what might seem like the most ridiculous of methods.

In 2002, Sean Vilmont, a 31-year-old accountant from Omaha, Nebraska, beat out nearly one million contestants to win espn.com's Men's Tournament Challenge. How did he do it?

Vilmont took No. 5-seed Indiana to upset top-seed Duke in the Sweet 16 in part because he watched A Season on the Brink, ESPN's made-for-TV movie about former Hoosiers' coach Bob Knight.

And Matt Bonds, a 16-year-old high junior from Muscle Shoals, Ala., picked his favorite team --the Alabama Crimson Tide -- to make the Elite Eight last year.

It might have seemed like a questionable decision, considering Alabama was a No. 8 seed in a rather deep regional. But Bonds took home $10,000 for winning espn.com's challenge thanks to it.

"If there weren't upsets, everybody would pick [the tournament correctly]. All you would have do is find out who the high seeds are and pick the high seeds," said Jacksonville University basketball coach Hugh Durham, whose 1983 Georgia team would have ruined a few fan brackets by making the Final Four as a No. …