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5 tips for happy March Madness bracketing

SPORTS BKC-ARKANSAS-KENTUCKY 10 LX
MVP, Kentucky's Willie Cauley-Stein (15) holds the championship trophy as confetti began to fall after the SEC tournament championship on Sunday, March 15, 2015, at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn. (Pablo Alcala/Lexington Herald-Leader/TNS)

MVP, Kentucky's Willie Cauley-Stein (15) holds the championship trophy as confetti began to fall after the SEC tournament championship on Sunday, March 15, 2015, at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn. (Pablo Alcala/Lexington Herald-Leader/TNS) MVP, Kentucky's Willie Cauley-Stein (15) holds the championship trophy as confetti began to fall after the SEC tournament championship on Sunday, March 15, 2015, at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn. (Pablo Alcala/Lexington Herald-Leader/TNS)

March Madness is a time of Cinderellas and heartbreak. Most of the time, it's the Cinderellas causing said heartbreak.

It's happened to the best of us: An unexpected upset here and there or a miracle run from a small school hailing from a state you couldn't point to on a map that demolishes one quarter or even more of your bracket.

Somehow, all us college basketball fans have bought into the un-winnable game of picking every game all across the country.

The eventual national champion has to win six games but for us fans, every single game in every single region is a must-win. We hate crossing off our trendy Elite Eight pick or watching our beloved one or two seed go down in the first two rounds.

No one can guarantee you success in the inexact science of bracketology, but here are my five best tips for creating a bracket you can be happy with.

1. Brace yourself for disappointment.

No matter how much we all wish we were clairvoyant, we're not. Things are going to happen that we don't expect; it's part of the wonder of March Madness.

If you want to have a happy bracket you simply have to accept the fact that there is going to be red. You won't pick every game or predict every upset.

More likely than not you'll have two or three regions with more wrong picks than right. If you're really lucky you'll have one.

So prepare yourself to lose ... a lot. Once you come to grips with that harsh reality, it'll be relatively smooth sailing.

2. Buyer beware for No. 5 seeds

You've probably heard this from a number of talking (or writing) heads in the last few days: No. 5 seeds are almost always a lock to lose to the No. 12 seed.

In the last three years, the 12th seed has gone 8-4 in the first round against the 5th seed.

While it isn't necessarily a guarantee, the last time all four No. 5 seeds won was in 2007. It's safe to say that one or more are going to lose on Thursday or Friday.

Don't be stubborn, and don't embrace the chalk against all odds. Cover your bases and take a flyer on Stephen F. Austin (playing No. 5 Utah) or Wyoming against No. 5 Northern Iowa.

3. Defense wins championships

Want to know how phrases become cliches? By being right more often than not.

In the instance of this time-honored party line, defense does in fact win championships.

Hot offenses can go cold very, very fast, but a great defense is almost always going to show up. A team that limits opponents to high-50s, low-60s is not suddenly going to give up 80 in the tournament unless a player (or several) gets injured or fouls out.

If you're caught between picking a team with a good offense and a team with a good defense, go with the "D."

4. Try not to second-guess yourself

At the end of the day, your gut may be more reliable than you think.

In today's Twitter age, there will be so many people picking Team A over Team B and vice versa. Everyone has a say so both sides of every debate are going to have an argument, sometimes a convincing one.

Rather than flipping back and forth with every obscure stat you read or rant you hear, trust your initial reaction. You may not always be right but at least you'll avoid the headache of constant second guessing.

5. Kentucky's going to win

Okay so this is less of a tip than a prediction. I've watched some Kentucky games and on tape they look like the best team in college basketball by far.

There are some other very good teams. I definitely fear a team like Wisconsin or Duke, but Kentucky is just loaded. There are probably four to five good NBA players on this team right now and their defense is just phenomenal.

For me, it would take a lot to beat Kentucky. Their hypothetical upset team would have to be one with great length and rebounding who was able to hit 3's with great success and capitalize on the foul line.

Looking at the potential opponents for the Wildcats, there doesn't seem to be a team that truly fits that style, at least in their region. So I'm going with Kentucky this year, and I think you should, too.

 

Reach the columnist at icbeck@asu.edu or follow @ICBeck21 on Twitter.

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