The Dummy’s Guide to filling out a 2019 NCAA tournament bracket

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The NCAA tournament is back as college basketball dominates the American cultural landscape for the next month.

Filling out a bracket has become one of the greatest traditions in sports as it unites offices, classrooms and groups of friends and family all over the country. 

But before you fill out your 2019 NCAA tournament bracket, check out these 16 helpful tips to help you navigate the treacherous March waters.

The goal of every March should be to help newcomers get swept up in the madness so they see the light.

This basic guide should help both rookie and veteran NCAA tournament fans as they try to earn bragging rights for the next year.

1. Fill out one bracket and one bracket only. Multiple bracket people are cowards and should never be trusted. There’s only honor and glory in filling out one set of picks and riding and dying with those picks until the very end.

2. Avoid taking a No. 16 over a No. 1. Yes, No. 16 seed UMBC beat No. 1 seed Virginia last season. There’s a reason that’s only happened one. Every No. 1 seed is going to be on-guard after the Cavaliers became a national punchline.

3. Follow the news and be ready to make late changes to your bracket as needed. It’s a long time between Selection Sunday and the opening tips on Thursday. A lot of things can change before the tournament actually begins. Injuries and suspensions are something to monitor throughout the week.

4. Be sure to take a No. 12 seed over a No. 5 seed. It always happens at least once. If you’re a bracket newcomer, and need a talking point in Slack (do people even talk around water coolers anymore?), having a No. 12 seed to ride with is an easy way to stay in the casual tournament conversation.

5. Avoid No. 6 seeds going deep into the tournament at all costs. A No. 6 seed hasn’t been to the Final Four since 1992. Last season, two No. 6 seeds were upset in the first round. The other two were dispatched in the Round of 32.

6. Make sure your champion has a McDonald’s All-American on the roster. It’s really fun to pull for the underdog and root for another Loyola story. We’ve also only had two national champions since 1978 that didn’t feature a Burger Boy — UConn in 2014 and Maryland in 2002. Over 40 years of evidence tells us that elite talent is still a huge part of winning the whole thing.

7. Speaking of Loyola, I wouldn’t advise taking a double-digit seed all the way to the Final Four. Double-digit seeds have only made the Final Four five times in tournament history. None of them were a No. 12 seed or higher. And no team in the 2019 field has the direct backing of Sister Jean.

8. While we’re on the subject of double-digit seeds, find at least one to get behind early. Ride them until the Sweet 16. Maybe even the Elite Eight if you’re truly brave. This happens every year, and if you correctly the right pick, it makes for a memorable March experience.

9. It’s important to take upsets but don’t take too many upsets. Rooting for underdogs and small schools is a ton of fun in the Round of 64 until you realize that your upset-filled bracket has no chance of succeeding.

10. Try not to get hung up on No. 1 seeds. Definitely drop at least one of them before the Final Four. The only year all four No. 1 seeds made the Final Four was 2008.

11. Offense wins championships. You’ll probably hear some old-school uncle or colleague decree that “defense wins championships.” Modern basketball data says otherwise. Tell those pro-defense people to go pop in a VHS of the four corners offense if they’re pining for the old days. Have they not seen Steph Curry and the sport’s three-point revolution? Modern basketball is all about high skill level.

12. Don’t trust the Pac-12 or the Big East. While the other four main college hoops conferences (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC) all have enticing potential title teams, the Pac-12 and Big East spent the year beating up on each other. This includes defending champion Villanova — a completely different team from last season’s title run.

13. Check where all of the games are being played while deciding picks. The NCAA tournament is technically played on a neutral floor. But there will be significant homecourt advantages for certain teams — particularly top seeds with traveling fanbases who get to play closer to home.

14. Monitor how a team has been playing the past few weeks. The committee has skewed away from the whole “last 10 games” metric. But sometimes it’s easy to tell which teams are hot and which teams are in a freefall entering the Big Dance. Just be careful doing this with juggernaut mid-majors who feasted on easy competition during conference play.

15. Pick teams that you like and root against teams that you hate. It’s a terrible feeling if you picked against your beloved alma mater or favorite team just because you put 10 bucks on a bracket challenge. It’s even worse when you pick your hated rival to go deep for those same reasons.

16. Don’t take any of this too seriously.

March Madness is special because all you have to do is fill out a bracket and have some hot takes to be just like everyone else in America. People love to believe they have the whole bracket figured out. There’s also a reason Warren Buffett once offered $1 billion to anyone who picked a perfect bracket. Because perfection is just not possible in this scenario.

The chaos and the highs and the lows of every March bring us all together. Pick some upsets, talk some trash and get lost in the spirit of March — the most magical time of the year. Best of luck to everyone filling out a bracket. We’re all going to need it.

Kentucky moves scrimmage to Eastern Kentucky for flood relief

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky will play its annual Blue-White men’s basketball scrimmage in Eastern Kentucky to benefit victims of the devastating summer floods.

The school announced that the Oct. 22 event at Appalachian Wireless Arena in Pikeville will feature a pregame Fan Fest. Ticket proceeds will go through Team Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief.

Wildcat players will also participate in a community service activity with local organizations in the relief effort.

Kentucky coach John Calipari said the team was excited to play for Eastern Kentucky fans and added, “We hope we can provide a temporary escape with basketball and community engagement.”

The scrimmage traditionally is held at Rupp Arena. It will occur eight days after its Big Blue Madness public workout at Rupp.

Kentucky’s Tionna Herron recovering from open-heart surgery

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky coach Kyra Elzy says freshman Tionna Herron is recovering from open-heart surgery to correct a structural abnormality.

The 6-foot-4 post player learned of her condition after arriving at school in June and received other opinions before surgery was recommended. Senior trainer Courtney Jones said in a release that Herron underwent surgery Aug. 24 at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston and is recovering at home in DeSoto, Texas.

Elzy said Herron “is the definition of a warrior” and all are grateful to be on the other side of the player’s surgery. Herron is expected back on campus early next month and will continue rehabilitation until she’s cleared to return to normal activity.

“Her will and determination to eventually return to the court is inspiring, and it’s that `game-on’ attitude that is what makes her such a perfect fit in our program,” Elzy said in a release. “We are so thrilled for Tionna’s return to our locker room; it’s not the same without our full team together.”

Herron committed to Kentucky during last fall’s early signing period, rated as a four-star prospect and a top-70 player in last year’s class. Kentucky won last year’s Southeastern Conference Tournament and reached the NCAA Tournament’s first round.

Emoni Bates charged with 2 felonies

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SUPERIOR TOWNSHIP, Mich — Emoni Bates, a former basketball prodigy who transferred to Eastern Michigan from Memphis, was charged with two felonies after police found a gun in a car during a traffic stop.

The 18-year-old Bates failed to stop at an intersection Sunday night and a search turned up the weapon, said Derrick Jackson, a spokesman for the Washtenaw County sheriff’s office.

Defense attorney Steve Haney told The Associated Press that the vehicle and the gun didn’t belong to Bates.

“I hope people can reserve judgment and understand there’s a presumption of innocence,” Haney said. “This was not his vehicle. This was not his gun. … We’re still gathering facts, too.”

Bates was charged with carrying a concealed weapon and altering identification marks on a firearm. He was released after his lawyer entered a not guilty plea. Bates’ next court hearing is Oct. 6.

“This is his first brush with the law,” Haney said in court. “He poses no threat or risk to society.”

Less than a month ago, the 6-foot-9 Bates transferred to Eastern Michigan to play for his hometown Eagles. Bates averaged nearly 10 points a game last season as a freshman at Memphis, where he enrolled after reclassifying to skip a year of high school and join the class of 2021.

“We are aware of a situation involving one of our student athletes,” EMU spokesman Greg Steiner said. “We are working to gather more details and will have further comment when more information is available.”

Bates was the first sophomore to win the Gatorade national player of the year award in high school basketball in 2020, beating out Cade Cunningham and Evan Mobley. Detroit drafted Cunningham No. 1 overall last year, two spots before Cleveland took Mobley in the 2021 NBA draft.

Bates committed to playing for Tom Izzo at Michigan State two years ago, later de-committed and signed with Memphis. Bates played in 18 games for the Tigers, who finished 22-11 under Penny Hardaway. Bates missed much of the season with a back injury before appearing in Memphis’ two NCAA Tournament games.

In 2019, as a high school freshman, the slender and skilled guard led Ypsilanti Lincoln to a state title and was named Michigan’s Division 1 Player of the Year by The Associated Press. His sophomore season was cut short by the pandemic and he attended Ypsi Prep Academy as a junior, his final year of high school.

UConn to pay Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million over firing

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STORRS, Conn. — UConn announced Thursday it has agreed to pay former men’s basketball coach Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million to settle discrimination claims surrounding his 2018 firing.

The money is in addition to the more than $11.1 million in back salary Ollie has already been paid after an arbitrator ruled in January that he was improperly fired under the school’s agreement with its professor’s union.

“I am grateful that we were able to reach agreement,” Ollie said in a statement Thursday. “My time at UConn as a student-athlete and coach is something I will always cherish. I am pleased that this matter is now fully and finally resolved.”

Ollie, a former UConn point guard who guided the Huskies to a 127-79 record and the 2014 national championship in six seasons as head coach, was let go after two losing seasons. UConn also stopped paying him under his contract, citing numerous NCAA violations in terminating the deal.

In 2019, the NCAA placed UConn on probation for two years and Ollie was sanctioned individually for violations, which the NCAA found occurred between 2013 and 2018. Ollie’s attorneys, Jacques Parenteau and William Madsen, accused UConn of making false claims to the NCAA for the purpose of firing Ollie “with cause.”

The school had argued that Ollie’s transgressions were serious and that his individual contract superseded those union protections.

Ollie’s lawyers had argued that white coaches, including Hall-of-Famers Jim Calhoun and women’s coach Geno Auriemma, had also committed NCAA violations, without being fired, and indicated they were planning to file a federal civil rights lawsuit.

The school and Ollie said in a joint statement Thursday they were settling “to avoid further costly and protracted litigation.”

Both sides declined to comment further.

Ollie, who faced three years of restrictions from the NCAA on becoming a college basketball coach again, is currently coaching for Overtime Elite, a league that prepares top prospects who are not attending college for the pros.

Dream’s McDonald returning to Arizona to coach under Barnes

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TUCSON, Ariz. — Atlanta Dream guard Aari McDonald is returning to Arizona to work under coach Adia Barnes.

The school announced that McDonald will serve as director of recruiting operations while continuing to fulfill her WNBA commitments. She will oversee all recruiting logistics, assist with on-campus visits, manage recruit information and social media content at Arizona.

McDonald was one of the best players in Arizona history after transferring from Washington as a sophomore. She was an All-American and the Pac-12 player of the year in 2020-21, leading the Wildcats to the national championship game, which they lost to Stanford.

McDonald broke Barnes’ single-season scoring record and had the highest career scoring average in school history before being selected by the Dream with the third overall pick of the 2021 WNBA draft.