I didn’t watch much college basketball growing up. Coming of age as a basketball fan in mid-’90s Houston, where Hakeem the Dream was leading the Rockets to back-to-back NBA titles, I had little time for these amateur athletes and their collegiate sport with almost zero good teams in Texas. In fact, back in the days of limited local coverage, March Madness was just an annoyance to me because Rockets games would get cut so I could watch some college I had never heard of lose to Arkansas or UCLA.

However, this never stopped me from filling out a bracket. “Bracketology,” as we are calling it these days, is a science you don’t need a license for, and I have slowly mastered the art of quack prognostications. I certainly don’t win the pool every year (in fact, I am something like 0-6 against my brother), but my three (patent pending) selection steps will get you in at least the top third of any pool.

Step 1- State Schools, Techs and Locations

Throughout my bracket-selecting years, I have always bet against state schools (schools with the word “state” in the name), techs and locations (subsidiaries of state school away from the main campus). This is primarily born out of my Texan heritage. There was no Texas State when I was a kid, state school locations were where you went if you couldn’t get in and pretty much everybody hated Texas Tech. Imagine my relief when a meticulous mathematical review of four randomly chosen tournament brackets from the last eight years matched my half-brained theory.

State schools lost 52 percent of the time in my study (which would be a much higher number if it weren’t for the Final Four runs of Oklahoma State and Michigan State in the years I studied). Tech schools lost 64 percent of the time, and location schools fail a robust 75 percent of the time. Now this isn’t all that surprising because location schools are usually smaller and less funded than their main campus rivals, but with UMBC facing Georgetown and UT-Arlington facing Memphis, I think it’s safe to bet that this statistic will only get stronger. Unfortunately, there aren’t any Techs to pick against, but there are plenty of state schools for me to count out early.

Step 2- If It Sounds Like a Loser.

This one may sound silly, but I promise it works. The trick is identifying colleges whose very name connotes losing, weakness or a lack of athleticism. For me, stupid-sounding colleges mostly include imaginary state schools (i.e. Weber State) and schools named after religious fanatics.

Imaginary state schools, including Weber State, Wright State, Murray State and Jackson State, among others, are 0-9 in the last five years. This makes things really easy for me because there are four such schools in this year’s field.

The religious fanatics title was the least offensive label I could come up with for this category, and remember there is nothing wrong with being fanatical about your religion. Isn’t that right Brigham Young and Oral Roberts? Unfortunately, you two are 0-5 in the last five years, and I’m giving Pitt the edge against the school with the 60-foot tall praying hands.

This year I may have to make a new category called “school names that don’t make sense.” Mount Saint Mary’s confuses me immensely, and I’ll give a dollar to whoever can explain Austin PEAY to me.

Step 3- Ignore Dick Vitale

Dick Vitale is great for calling an ACC rivalry game, but his years of watching college ball haven’t made him the best bracketeer in the world (if Joe Lunardi can make up words so can I). I couldn’t find his picks farther back than 2004, but I feel like I’ve been picking against him my whole life.

Since 2004, Dicky V. has gone 6-16 in picking Final Four teams, which, considering how often a team is a no-brainer for the Final Four, is a pretty low number. In general, Vitale seems to love certain teams so much that it hinders his judgment, and you never want love for college basketball to affect your decision making.

So there you have it, my three-step system to NCAA glory. I realize that most of these tips are for early round decisions, but I thought that would be most helpful because most people know the least about those early-round teams.

For the rest of the bracket, I think Tennessee is overrated, Texas under and Memphis’s free-throw shooting might cost them a Final Four berth. Georgetown got paired with the only one-seed it can beat, but I don’t think it will make it that far. In the end, I’m probably going to hitch my horse to the ACC wagon and do lots of guess work in between from there. Good luck. I’ll just be happy if I finally beat my brother.

Jamie Leader is a junior in the College. He can be reached at leaderthehoya.com.

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