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.

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

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INDIANAPOLIS — With the coronavirus pandemic already forcing changes for college basketball, a bubble may be brewing in Indianapolis.

Indiana Sports Corp. released a 16-page proposal Friday that calls for turning the city convention center’s exhibition halls and meeting rooms into basketball courts and locker rooms. There would be expansive safety measures and daily COVID-19 testing.

The all-inclusive price starts at $90,000 per team and would cover 20 hotel rooms per traveling party, testing, daily food vouchers ranging from $30-$50 and the cost of game officials. Sports Corp. President Ryan Vaughn said the price depends on what offerings teams or leagues choose.

“The interest has been high,” Vaughn said. “I think as conferences figure out what conference and non-conference schedules are going to look like, we’re we’re a very good option for folks. I would tell you we’ve had conversations with the power six conferences, mid-majors, it’s really kind of all over the Division I spectrum.”

Small wonder: The NCAA this week announced teams could start ramping up workouts Monday, with preseason practices set to begin Oct. 14. Season openers, however, were pushed back to Nov. 25 amid wide-ranging uncertainty about campus safety and team travel in the pandemic.

There is already scrambling going on and some of the marquee early-season tournaments have already been impacted.

The Maui Invitational will be moved from Hawaii to Asheville, North Carolina, with dates still to be determined and organizers clear that everyone involved “will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.” The Batttle 4 Atlantis has been canceled. The Cancun Challenge will be held in Melbourne, Florida, not Mexico.

More changes almost certainly will be coming, including what to do with the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

“I think we’re past the guesswork on whether we play 20 conference games or more than that,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said Friday. “We’re trying to get everybody set like in terms of MTEs (multi-team events), figuring out when to play the ACC-Big Ten challenge.”

Painter, who was part of the NCAA committee that recommended how to start the season, noted part of the uncertainty stems from differing protocols imposed by campus, city and state officials.

In Indianapolis, Vaughn believes the convention center, nearby hotels, restaurants and downtown businesses, many within walking distance of the venue, could safely accommodate up to 24 teams. The 745,000-square foot facility would feature six basketball courts and two competition courts.

Anyone entering the convention center would undergo saliva-based rapid response testing, which would be sent to a third-party lab for results. Others venues could be added, too, potentially with more fans, if the case numbers decline.

If there is a taker, the event also could serve as a dry run for the 2021 Final Four, also slated for Indy.

“It’s not going to hurt,” Vaughn said. “I can tell you all the planning we’re doing right now is the same for a Final Four that’s been scheduled here for any other year. But it would be nice to have this experience under our belt to see if it can be done.”

Maui Invitational moving to North Carolina during pandemic

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ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The Maui Invitational is moving to the mainland during the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the premier preseason tournaments on the college basketball schedule, the Maui Invitational will be played at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.

Dates for the tournament announced Friday have yet to be finalized. The NCAA announced Wednesday that the college basketball season will begin Nov. 25.

This year’s Maui Invitational field includes Alabama, Davidson, Indiana, North Carolina, Providence, Stanford, Texas and UNLV.

All teams, staff, officials, and personnel will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.

Burton eligible at Texas Tech after 2 seasons at Wichita State

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LUBBOCK, Texas — Junior guard Jamarius Burton has been granted a waiver from the NCAA that makes him eligible to play this season for Texas Tech after starting 52 games the past two seasons for Wichita State.

Texas Tech coach Chris Beard announced the waiver Thursday, which came five months after Burton signed with the Big 12 team.

Burton has two seasons of eligibility remaining, as well as a redshirt season he could utilize. He averaged 10.3 points and 3.4 assists per game as a sophomore at Wichita State, where he played 67 games overall.

Burton is from Charlotte. He helped lead Independence High School to a 31-1 record and the North Carolina Class 4A state championship as a senior there.

NCAA season set to open day before Thanksgiving

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The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball season will begin on Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.

The Division I Council voted Wednesday to push the start date back from the originally scheduled Nov. 10 as one of several precautions against the spread of coronavirus.

The later start date coincides with the decision most schools made to send students home from Thanksgiving until January out of concern about a potential late-fall and early-winter flareup of COVID-19. Closed campuses could serve as a quasi bubble for players and provide a window for non-conference games.

The maximum number of regular-season games has been reduced from 31 to 27. The minimum number of games for consideration for the NCAA Tournament was cut from 25 to 13.

Teams can start preseason practices Oct. 14 but will be allowed to work out 12 hours per week beginning Monday.

No scrimmages against other teams or exhibitions are allowed.

In other action, the council voted to extend the recruiting dead period for all sports through Dec. 31. In-person recruiting is not allowed during a dead period, though phone calls and other correspondence are allowed.

The men’s and women’s basketball oversight committees had jointly recommended a start date of Nov. 21, which would have allowed for games to be played on the weekend before Thanksgiving. The council opted not to do that to avoid a conflict with regular-season football games.

The council is scheduled to meet again Oct. 13-14 and could delay the start date and change other pieces of the basketball framework if circumstances surrounding the virus warrant.

UConn’s Tyrese Martin granted waiver to play this season

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STORRS, Conn. — UConn swingman Tyrese Martin, who transferred from Rhode Island in April, has been granted a waiver that will allow him to play for the Huskies this season.

The 6-foot-6 junior averaged 12.8 points and 7.1 rebounds and started every game last season for URI, where he was recruited by current UConn coach Dan Hurley.

NCAA rules require undergraduate transfers to sit out a season, but the organization has been more lenient in granting waivers during the pandemic.

Martin, 21, is expected to compete for playing time at UConn on the wing as both a guard and small forward.