Sometime in the next day or so I'll be handed a bracket. Then I'll have to decide what angle to use this year.
In my 25-plus years with The Courier-Times, I think I have used every strategy there is in picking the NCAA basketball tournament. But it's time for March Madness again, and I can't just let the darned thing lie on my desk.
The first impulse is to go with the sentimental angle: pick your favorite team(s) to go deep into the tournament. For most fans in this area, that would probably be Butler or Indiana.
Both teams do have favorable draws. The Bulldogs are seeded No. 6 in the East Regional and play Bucknell on Thursday. The Hoosiers are seeded No. 1 in the same regional and play Friday against a play-in winner that will be determined tonight.
Theoretically, Indiana and Butler could meet in the regional championship game, since they are in opposite brackets. That could be an intriguing rematch of the early-season game won by the Bulldogs.
But what do fans of Purdue and Ball State do this year? Their teams are not in the Big Dance this year. The Cardinals' attention right now is on finding a new coach to replace Billy Taylor. He was fired last week, the day after BSU was ousted from the Mid-American Conference tournament.
There's the "Stick with the favorites" angle. This involves picking the higher seeds throughout. But this isn't much fun. You have to pick some upsets here and there.
Devoted college basketball geeks might use the "deep and extensive research angle." This involves a careful study of each team, its regular season highs and lows, strengths and weaknesses, and so on.
The problem with this angle is that it's too much WORK! Most people would have to be unemployed to have time to break down 68 teams.
Some of my co-workers use the "consult the experts" angle to fill out their brackets. Usually that means a family member who is more tuned-in to the sports The trouble with this strategy is that your personal expert cannot predict the team thatwillwin a certain game; only the team thatshould.
One more thing: Do not consider sports writers among the "experts." That is the most dangerous thing you could do.
We sports hacks are so wrapped up in our own beats that we simply don't have much time to pay attention to national sports. Except for Butler and the Big Ten, I haven't paid much attention to college basketball this past season.
Another angle is "Chose a long shot." This involves picking a really low seed to go as far as the Sweet Sixteen or Final Four. This is a high-risk strategy, but it gives much satisfaction if your long shot team makes it.
Some years I have employed the "last-minute wild blitz" angle. This means waiting until late Thursday morning and then flying right through the bracket in 10 minutes or less, filling in names with very little thought.
For me, this strategy works no worse than anything else I've tried.
Well, those are just a few of my strategies. You have to choose your own approach. No system is foolproof. Have at it!
John Hodge is the sports editor of The Courier-Times.