The Dummy’s Guide to filling out an NCAA Tournament Bracket

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The greatest stretch in sports is here.

The 2017 NCAA Tournament is already dominating American sports talk and the next few weeks will be filled with brackets and upsets.

While many people feel comfortable navigating their way through a bracket and making their own selections, some people are a bit newer to this and need some basic tips and guidance on how to look things over and get things done.

So here’s a look at some basic guidelines to follow so that you at least sound like you’re up to speed on things when you have to get in an awkward discussion with your boss about his alma mater after a meeting. He expects you to know something about Big Ten basketball. You want that promotion, right? You better know something about Big Ten basketball.

We’ll help you get there.

RELATED: Printable NCAA Tournament Bracket

1. Fill out one bracket only. One. Don’t be that person who fills out multiple brackets and brags about “your other bracket” that nobody is interested in. That person is always the worst.

There is no honor in winning a bracket pool if you fill out multiple brackets. This is America and you have to stick with your bad decisions and ride with them until the very end. It’s what we do.

2. Don’t be afraid to make changes to your bracket up until the Thursday afternoon games tip off. You have a few days of analysis to go over and you can take your time sifting through the proper information and filling this thing out. College Basketball Talk and NBCSports.com have plenty have great stuff to go over (shameless plug).

3. Pick the teams you care about and against the teams you can’t stand (to the best of your abilities). If you’re an Ohio State fan, then don’t pick Michigan as you sulk at home without a bid.. If you’re a Northwestern graduate and they’re in the tournament for the first time, then definitely pick them. People understand sports love and hate in ways that translate all boundaries. Stick with those convictions.

4. Pay attention to the news and happenings of college basketball — if only for the week. Prime example last year: Cal lost leading scorer Tyrone Wallace to a broken hand during practice on Wednesday night with their first-round game coming on Friday afternoon. The Bears lost to No. 13 seed Hawaii in the first round. If you pay attention to things like that, it can help sway a late decision.

5. A No. 16 seed has never defeated a No. 1 seed. We just had to get this out of the way.

RELATED: Power Rankings 1-68 | Duke deserved a No. 1 seed | Committee got bubble right

REGIONAL BREAKDOWNS: East | Midwest | South | West

6. A No. 12 seed always beats a No. 5 seed. Find a No. 12 seed that you feel good about and ride that pick with supreme confidence. In some years, multiple No. 12 seeds beat multiple No. 5 seeds. Throw out a couple of those upsets if you’re feeling it. Get wild with it. This year’s crop of 5/12 games has four scary matchups once again. It’s always among the toughest group of games to gauge.

7. You also need to find a double-digit seed that you feel comfortable riding to the Sweet 16 or Elite Eight. It happens every year. Maybe it’s the 12 seed you just feel in love with? Or maybe you settle in with a No. 11 seed you feel comfortable with. You could even take both of them and really have some fun with it.

8. Don’t be afraid to pick upsets in general. But also be cautious of picking upset teams to advance too far. Double-digit seeds rarely make the Final Four and they’ve never won a title. If you have one or two going to the Sweet 16 it isn’t crazy at all.

9. Looking into a conference’s bid totals never hurts. The sooner you learn that the ACC was awesome this year and the Big Ten and Pac-12 were trash, the more it will help your bracket.

10. The Rule of 10. Check out how a team has played in their last 10 games. Sometimes it’s easy to spot a team in a freefall. But you can never tell that by simply looking at overall record and seed. On paper, you might think 15-loss Vanderbilt could fall into the category of struggling teams. They’ve actually won seven of nine games entering the NCAA Tournament as one of the hotter teams in the country.

11. Going over game locations never hurts. Good example in this year’s East Region: No. 7 seed South Carolina takes on No. 10 seed Marquette in a pretty even matchup.

Except this game is being played in Greenville, South Carolina. And the Gamecocks have been to one NCAA Tournament since 1998 and haven’t won a game since 1973. Those fans could be a huge boost in a tight game. There are multiple examples of small things like that you can find on the bracket. Put that geography knowledge to use.

12. It’s extremely rare that all four No. 1 seeds make the Final Four. You definitely need to find a top seed and drop them before the games reach Glendale. Which, for 95 percent of you, will mean Gonzaga.

12. For whatever reason, don’t ride with No. 6 seeds. We haven’t seen one reach the Final Four since 1992.

13. Also don’t be scared to take one of the teams from the First Four games (Wake Forest, Kansas State, Providence and USC) and have them advance into at least the Round of 32. It’s happened every year. We’ve even seen teams from the First Four move on to the Sweet 16 and beyond like VCU’s Final Four run. Here’s a hint: one of this year’s teams played in the toughest conference in the country and has an All-American on the roster.

14. If the rules of filling out a bracket get to be too much, just have fun and don’t stress out about it. Part of the joy of March Madness is getting distracted from work or school during the week and getting to watch some basketball.

Picking an upset is a thrilling experience and watching a team you picked advance into the Final Four leaves you with an accomplished feeling.

This is the best time of year. Best of luck to everyone filling out their bracket.

Mississippi State losing two to transfer

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Mississippi State will lose two players to transfer as freshmen Mario Kegler and Eli Wright are leaving the program.

Both Kegler and Wright were four-star prospects coming out of high school as they were apart of a six-man recruiting class that is supposed to be a major foundation for Ben Howland’s future with the Bulldogs.

The 6-foot-7 Kegler was Mississippi State’s third-leading scorer last season as he averaged 9.7 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. Kegler should command some quality schools on the transfer market, especially since he’ll still have three more years of eligibility after sitting out next season due to NCAA transfer regulations. Kegler’s loss is also notable for Mississippi State because it is the second consecutive offseason that Howland lost a top-100, in-state product to transfer after only one season after Malik Newman left for Kansas.

Wright, a 6-foot-4 guard, was never able to find consistent minutes as he was already behind underclass perimeter options like Quinndary Weatherspoon, Lamar Peters and Tyson Carter last season. With Nick Weatherspoon, Quinndary’s four-star brother, also joining the Bulldogs next season, the writing was likely on the wall that Wright wasn’t going to earn significant playing time.

 

N.C. State lands second transfer of day with Utah’s Devon Daniels

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A big recruiting day for N.C. State continued on Saturday afternoon as Utah transfer and guard Devon Daniels pledged to the Wolfpack.

Earlier in the day, N.C. State and new head coach Kevin Keatts landed another quality transfer in UNC Wilmington guard C.J. Bryce.

The 6-foot-5 Daniels just finished his freshman season with the Utes in which he put up 9.9 points 4.6 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game while shooting 57 percent from the field and 40 percent from three-point range. Just like Bryce, Daniels will have to sit out the 2017-18 season due to NCAA transfer regulations before he has three more seasons of eligibility.

N.C. State now has two potential starters on the perimeter for the 2018-19 season with the addition of Bryce and Daniels as it will be interesting to see what kind of talent the Wolfpack can get around them.

 

UNC Wilmington transfer C.J. Bryce follows Kevin Keatts to N.C. State

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N.C. State landed an impact transfer on Saturday as UNC Wilmington guard C.J. Bryce will be following former head coach Kevin Keatts to the Wolfpack, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com

The 6-foot-5 Bryce averaged 17.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game last season as he helped the Seahawks to an NCAA tournament appearance. Bryce will have to sit out the 2017-18 season due to NCAA transfer regulations, but he’ll have two seasons of eligibility remaining after sitting out one season.

With N.C. State getting center Omer Yurtseven back for next season, and with the addition of Bryce, it means that Keatts has retained, or added, some talented players for the next few seasons. The Wolfpack still have to fill a lot of roster spots from last season’s team, but Keatts seems to be having a really good week.

Seven identified after threats made against referee John Higgins following Kentucky Elite Eight loss

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College basketball referee John Higgins received threats to his home and business in late March after some controversial calls in North Carolina’s win over Kentucky in the 2017 NCAA Tournament.

Seven people have now been identified for making threats against Higgins, according to an Associated Press report. The FBI’s Omaha, Nebraska field office said that information on the seven people will be referred to authorities in their jurisdictions.

An investigation over the last few months helped find the culprits, as the Omaha-based Higgins received emails, phone calls and voicemails to his personal home and roofing company following Kentucky’s NCAA Tournament departure. Wildcat head coach John Calipari might have ignited some of the anger in Kentucky fans by criticizing the officiating following the North Carolina loss.

“Based on the investigation’s findings, our office has determined that no local charges will be filed and that pursuit of any criminal charges would be best served by deferring to authorities in the appropriate jurisdictions,” Sarpy County Attorney Lee Polikov said in a statement to The Associated Press. “The length of the investigation was drawn out due in part to the large volume of potential evidence requiring analysis, and the multi-jurisdictional issues arising from the multiple states in which the communications originated.”

Polikov also said that at least two media outlets were exposing and promoting Higgins’ contact information.

“This information has been referred to the Federal Communications Commission for further investigation of the potential violations related to applicable federal communications regulations,” Polikov said.

Higgins received about 3,000 phone calls at his office in the two days following the game. Sheriff’s investigator Matt Barrall told the AP that an estimated 75 percent of the calls were from Kentucky area codes.

The roofing business that Higgins owns was also flooded with bad online reviews and negative star ratings, causing his Google rating to fall while also forcing Higgins to take down the Facebook page for his business.

Beilein still upbeat after Michigan loses another to NBA

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — For a major program, Michigan is a somewhat unlikely candidate for this kind of NBA-induced attrition.

The Wolverines have fielded some very good teams under John Beilein, but they haven’t been relying on prospects expected to jump to the pros as soon as they can.

“We’re not depending all our success on one-and-dones,” Beilein said. “Given that, our numbers right now are extraordinary.”

Beilein was referring to the number of players Michigan has sent to the NBA, particularly as early entrees. The Wolverines lost D.J. Wilson to the draft this offseason with two years of eligibility remaining, and now they’ll go through the familiar process of trying to replace a key player who turned pro.

The most significant early exodus occurred in 2013 and 2014, when Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary all went pro before their eligibility was up. Michigan won a lot of games with those players, reaching the Final Four and Elite Eight those two years, but their development made them attractive to NBA teams and shortened their college careers.

Wilson’s rise followed a similar pattern. He averaged only 2.7 points per game in 2015-16, and then increased to 11.0 this past season and became Michigan’s leading rebounder. His efforts helped Michigan win the Big Ten Tournament and reach the Sweet 16, and now he’s off to the NBA draft. The entire sequence of events would have seemed highly improbable a year ago.

The Wolverines won’t receive much sympathy from their Big Ten opponents, especially since Michigan will still have big man Moe Wagner, who tested the NBA waters but ultimately decided to stay in school. The 6-foot-11 Wagner averaged 12.1 points last season and shot 39.5 percent from 3-point range, showing huge improvement in much the same way Wilson did.

After losing senior point guard Derrick Walton, it will be interesting to see how Michigan’s offense operates if Wagner becomes even more of a focal point. When Beilein was at West Virginia, the Mountaineers achieved success behind center Kevin Pittsnogle, whose skill set and 3-point shooting ability was at least somewhat similar to Wagner’s.

“We’re not going to put him in that category yet,” Beilein said. “Let’s just say, having a big man who can shoot the ball like that changes a lot of things.”

Michigan was also able to add a new point guard recently in Jaaron Simmons, a graduate transfer from Ohio. Simmons is eligible immediately in 2017-18 and will move up from the Mid-American Conference to the Big Ten.

“A lot of the mid-majors are having this happen to them, and I don’t like it at all, but the fact is if Jaaron doesn’t come here, he ends up probably somewhere else in the Big Ten,” Beilein said. “He’s just fundamentally so sound. He’ll be here this summer. Just as a person, I just wanted to coach the kid after spending an hour with him — just the leadership, the desire to win.”

Simmons could help the Wolverines withstand the loss of Walton, and Beilein indicated he could serve as a bit of a mentor to players like point guard Xavier Simpson, who is entering his sophomore season.

“We went all-in with (Simmons), knowing we had that scholarship,” Beilein said. “We felt that was a huge need for us, is to just have a little bit more experience in the backcourt next year.”

Follow Noah Trister on Twitter @noahtrister