While the NCAA men’s basketball tournament tips off in just a few short hours, if you’re not a sports fan, you may still be staring at a blank bracket that’s due any minute (12:00 p.m. ET on Thursday).
Don’t worry! It’s all chaos, anyway, and there are still plenty of ways to fill out your bracket quickly and give you something to root for over the next three weeks of wall-to-wall basketball action. We’re here to run them down for you.
One added bonus: These rules aren’t specific to just the men’s tournament. So if you have a pool going for the women’s tournament (and you should!), you can apply these same approaches for that bracket as well.
Time’s wasting, so without further adieu, here are some suggestions.
Pick the favorites
OK, this is a very, very boring way to go. But If you really want to win, it might be your best bet. It’s called going “chalk,” an old sports term that has its roots in gambling but basically means you always pick the favorite.
There’s technically nothing wrong with that — Barack Obama does it all the time! — it’s just a little bland.
Plus, the tournament is all about stunning upsets. If you’re picking every favorite, you’re never rooting for the underdog. Where’s the fun in that? (Conversely, you could pick only underdogs but the stats tell us that will just go worse than this boring way.)
Still, it’s quick, it’s easy, and it gives you as good a chance to win as any. Good luck, boring picks, enjoy your lunch of saltine crackers and plain yogurt.
Final Four: Virginia, Villanova, Kansas, Xavier
Cinderella Watch: None because you have no zest for life!
Which mascot would win in a fight
Alright, now we’re talking. We so often (too often) treat sports like a life-or-death thing. Maybe it was in the age of gladiators, but in 2018, there are bigger things to worry about (like actual nuclear armageddon) than if your team makes it past the Sweet Sixteen.
But… what if… it was life or death again? What if real-life versions of each team’s mascot had to face off to determine the winner? Who would win then? Blood and honor are on the line, after all. (Sadly, Stanford, whose mascot is literally a tree, didn’t make the tournament this year).
Miami Hurricane vs Loyola-Chicago Ramblers
I’m not quite sure what a Rambler is. Like a Yeti Rambler™? They’re tough but I don’t think they’re tougher than a tropical storm cell ravaging the gulf coast.
— St. Paddy (@Pahearn13) March 15, 2018
Some matches are easy: Sorry, Loyola (Ill), but your wolf is no match for a hurricane (Miami). A wolverine (Michigan) is vicious, yes, but we’re not talking about the X-Men so there’s little chance against a damn grizzly bear (Montana). See? Easy.
One thing to watch: There are always a ton of “Wildcats” and “Tigers.” If you get a tiger-on-tiger match-up, just flip a coin.
Final Four: Montana Grizzlies, Marshall Thundering Herd, Miami Hurricanes, Bucknell Bison
Cinderella Watch: Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks, Seton Hall Pirates, Alabama Crimson Tide, Texas Longhorns
Uniforms and color schemes
Look, there’s no way around it: Some uniforms are fresh (I see you, Marshall) while others should be shot straight into the sun (I SEE YOU, MIAMI). Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and objectivity is often absent from fashion.
So if you’re really, really desperate, there’s always the fashion picks: your favorite uniforms or color schemes. If you love orange, you’ve got numerous teams (Clemson, Texas, that awful Miami jersey). Same for blue (Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina) and red (Arkansas, Alabama, Davidson).
It still gives you more control than just flipping a coin, anyway.
Final Four: North Carolina, Kentucky, Marshall, Kansas
Cinderella Watch: Gonzaga, Penn, Butler
Pick the better weather
Look, Cal State-Fullerton may be a 15 seed, but Purdue, number 2 seed, is in the Midwest. The Midwest is still a cold, icy hellscape for the next month at least. I live here. I know.
Go with sun and sand.
Final Four: Miami, San Diego State, Cal State Fullerton, New Mexico State
Cinderella Watch: Nevada, Charleston, and Buffalo for your one weird friend who just LOVES snow
Cheat off of FiveThirtyEight
Out of options? Than just head over to FiveThirtyEight’s predictor and copy them. What’s the worse that could happen?
Final Four: Kansas, North Carolina, Virginia, Villanova
Cinderella Watch: Loyola, Butler, Houston, Donald Trump
Just pick the Chrises
Too many favorites.
Image: DISNEY / FOX / WARNER BROS. / MASHABLE COMPOSITE
This one needs no explanation.
Final Four: Pine, Pratt, Evans, Hemsworth
Cinderella Watch: Walken, Meloni