Dan Kukla

Hopefully by the time you read this, the team you selected as champion of your NCAA basketball bracket is still alive. If you are either smart or an avid Bill Simmons reader (I say either because clearly it can’t be both … just check out his mailbag columns) then you made sure to avoid going with a team playing Thursday in order to ensure surviving the first day.

Indeed, it would be truly tragic to lose your champ on day one simply because that would ruin the most wonderful time of the year: bracket season. Regardless of gender, age, race, hair color, number of toes or level of sports interest, we all can appreciate the simple joys of March Madness.

How well you do really is irrelevant. Whether the winds of March bring upsets galore (see the year of George Mason) or none at all (see the year of the No. 1 seed), everyone’s bracket is pretty much shot after the first weekend anyway.

The fun comes in the actual filling out of the bracket. From 6 p.m. Selection Sunday to the first tip Thursday, Americans from coast to coast participate in this ritual that is anything but an exact science. This leads to a very important question: what is the best way to fill in all those little lines anyway?

There’s only one way to find out: make a bracket. I’ve composed two regions, each with four seeds of the most common or creative ways to pick a champion. To the winner go the spoils.

Andy Katz region: for all the sports nerds like me who need to get a life.

No. 1: The bookworm

Because all those hours logged in front of your TV during the regular season weren’t enough, spend even more unhealthy amounts of time poring over team stats, schedules, rankings, player matchups, past tourney appearances, travel routes, eating habits and ex-girlfriends.

No. 2: The couch potato

So you’re as eager as the bookworm but not nearly as motivated? Perfect, just let others do the research for you and spend unhealthy amounts of time reading expert opinions on ESPN.com and listening to ESPN radio and watching bracketology … on ESPN.

No. 3: The PRO-crastinator

Remember all those textbooks you didn’t read Big Monday, Super Tuesday, ACC Wednesday and Throwdown Thursday? Turns out you were still studying after all. Use that knowledge and just go with your gut.

No. 4: The math major

Do advanced calculus problems give you a sense of adventure and challenge rather than the deep desire to gouge out your eyes with sharp objects? Then you are probably way too smart for any of the above approaches and should spend your Sunday through Thursday generating a statistically based formula of your own to determine each game’s winner.

Your 10-year-old sister region: … and everyone else without a shred of sports knowledge who manages to annually beat the sports nerds like me.

No. 1: Shop ’til ya drop

You may not know if Robert Morris is any good at basketball or not, but you hear Michigan Avenue in Chicago is a great shopping location so this has to be a good pick.

No. 2: Mascot mania

Their mascot is an Orange? OMG, that’s like so totally lame. Who names a team after a color anyway? Lumberjacks eat oranges for breakfast. Definitely Stephen F. Austin.

No. 3: Friendly favorites

Example A: Your brother’s friend from college has a roommate whose mom knows a hairdresser with a nephew that has a neighbor who got kicked out of Louisville, so for redemption you pick Morehead State.

Example B: You are engaged to a girl named Mary so you pick the Terps to go all the way.

No. 4: Make your own luck

Your dad is forcing everyone in the family to participate in his office pool to create the best chance of keeping his trophy in the household. Since your only definition of a “turnover'” is a tasty treat, you look for the fastest way to get this bracket out of your sight. Solution: flip a coin! Heads goes to the high seed.

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