I've been breaking down brackets for a few years.  In that time I think I've come up with ten steps to help you fill out yours.  

1. Possibly the most crucial step.  It's very important to spend some time in a dark room coming to grips with the fact that this will end poorly for you. Unless you're going Back to the Future Part II with Biff's Sport's Almanac you're about to spend the next chunk of time constructing something that in a few weeks will likely be worth less than the paper on which it is written.  Once you've got a handle on this, move on to step two.

2. This is for the less bracket experienced readers out there.  Construct some sort of ridiculous criteria on which to grade teams. For instance, teams with coach's who's last name ends with a vowel advance.

3. Now it's time to put pen to paper.  Automatically advance one and two seeds. Also advance teams you have a gut feeling on - careful though, that may be indigestion - and all teams with mascots that have sharp teeth - or whatever your ridiculous criteria is.

4. Pencil in your 12-5 upset.  You have to have a 12-5 upset. While you're at it, fill out the rest of the first round, peppering in some upsets as you go.  Does it matter what upset?  It does and it doesn't.  Pick the right upset, you're leading the pool.  But will you pick the right upset?  Outlook not so good.

5. Go onto the next round.  Here's where you realize you've made huge mistakes in the first round.  Go back and fix what you can, but for the most part, just keep on keeping on.

6. Spend the next few hours wrestling with the sweet Sixteen Games all the way up to the Championship game.  At some point the bracket lines will start to blur together. You'll begin to zone out.  It's best to push through this and persevere.  Winning hurts some times.


7. No matter how much you try and persevere you will soon find yourself hunched over your bracket, your hands full of two tufts of your own hair and noticing that familiar feeling of your teeth being ground together.  Kind of like the guy on the left.  You are now angry at your bracket.  Don't call a therapist.  It's normal.  You should calmly stand up from your bracket, put on some Hootie and the Blowfish (Don't hate, dude's write a good tune), get a snack and a have a nap.

8. After allowing yourself to cool off, return to your bracket renewed, energized and ready to go.  I would suggest consulting the ESPN experts' picks. It's a nice way to ease back in.

9.  You will make a few picks level headed.  You will then, however, become angrier than you were before.  It is at this point that you should dig through the couch, find a quarter and resolve to deciding games via coin flip.  Tails never fails, baby.

10.  The coin flips should theoretically get you to the finish line.  However, just like after you've done your taxes, it's best to check your work.  When you've done this you'll realize that you're not satisfied.  You could leave it like that.  But come on! It's bracket time!  The money's on the line! Man up and repeat these steps until you've got a bracket you can be proud of...


Until Saturday that is, at which point there's a good chance your bracket will have fallen apart and you'll most likely resemble this guy on the left.

But hey, there's always a chance you've got THE bracket.  Every now and then the stars will align and the glory will be yours.  That's the beauty of the brackets.  It's March. It's Madness.  It's the most wonderful time of the year.

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