Timmy Greene | Staff photographer
The No. 1 seeds in this year’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament are Louisville, Gonzaga, Indiana, and Kansas.

The last two weeks of March are two of the most exhilarating and nerve-racking weeks in the culture of American sports. That’s right: I’m talking about March Madness.

The NCAA men’s basketball tournament is the premier tournament in college sports. Beyond watching the dozens of exciting games, part of the excitement that comes with March Madness is filling out your bracket.

There are plenty of ways to fill out a bracket. Some people turn to rituals, some turn to statistics, and others just go on basic instinct (for many this means picking the team with the cooler uniform or mascot). There truly is no one right way to pick your teams when filling out a bracket. Nobody can predict the perfect bracket; it’s the postseason, anything can happen. However, there are many simple things that can be taken into account in order to avoid the infuriating feeling of completely botching your bracket.

First things first, eliminate all biases you may have toward certain teams. I personally would love nothing more than to see Duke go down in the first round, again. But just because I can’t stand them doesn’t mean they’re a bad team. Yeah, Duke lost to a #15 seed last year, but the chances of that happening again are more than unlikely. On the other hand, just because your favorite team is a one or two seed, doesn’t mean that they’re the best team in their region and have a ticket to the Final Four. Generally, biases can cloud your judgment so that you lose sight of the reality of the tournament.

Second, know the context of the teams you pick. Gonzaga is an outstanding team, clearly, but they are in the weak West Coast Conference. In the last 15 years, only five teams have made it to the Final Four from a conference other than the Big East, Big Ten, ACC, SEC, Big 12, and Pac-12. Having an outstanding record does not automatically make a team capable of winning six games in a row against the best teams in the country. As much as I’d like to see a team from a non-powerhouse conference make a run for the championship, chances are it won’t be happening.

Third, consider the depth and experience of the teams in the bracket. Kentucky won the championship last year starting three freshmen and two sophomores, but it was just an amazing amount of talent and great coaching that spawned that championship team. More often than not, championship teams have lineups filled with upperclassmen that have the experience and depth to carry them through the tournament.

Selection Sunday is one of the greatest Sundays of the year. Many are eager to fill out their bracket and watch for their teams to come out on top, but it can be a miserable experience if you overlook important factors. Remember: avoid biases, don’t simply choose the teams that look better on paper, and don’t overlook experience.

There are many other factors and strategies to be aware of, but these three pieces of advice can ensure that you’re not throwing your bracket in the trash by the time the Elite Eight comes along.

[box type=”note” style=”rounded”]Which team do you think will win the NCAA men’s basketball tournament? Give us your prediction in the quick hit box on the right sidebar along with the reason you picked that team. Include your name if you want us to potentially feature your prediction.[/box]