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2011 NCAA Tournament: Using Your Gut to Fill Out Your Bracket

Ever wish that more things worked like college brackets? That you could seed everything that way? Top 64 pre-game foods. Top 64 college players. Well, now you can do just that with your friends, with the Allstate BFF Brackets, which takes your 64 top Facebook friends (an algorithm seeds them based on interaction) and seeds them in four regions, exactly like the real tourney. Once the tourney starts, your friends advance with the corresponding seeds – till one is left standing. Check it out here.

For as long as I can remember, I've watched the NCAA Tournament Selection Show with an empty bracket or notepad in hand and filled in the teams as they're announced. I continued this tradition yesterday, writing in Ohio State, Texas-San Antonio/Alabama St, George Mason and Villanova. (Out of habit, I guess, I rarely abbreviate school names in my bracket. George Mason is George Mason, not GMU, Villanova is Villanova, not Vill. or 'Nova, and Stanford is, well, not in the tournament.) At this point, my girlfriend gives me a curious look and says, "You know I can print a bracket out for you after the show, right?"

"Yeah, but I like to write down my gut picks," I respond, writing in West Virginia (not WVU).

Gut picks. First instincts. Better known as the picks that I will mull over and change multiple times between now and tip-off of the first game. I'm not the guy in the bar on Thursday and Friday who brags about how he knew that 14-seed X was going to upset 3-seed Y, but changed his bracket at the last minute, as if he should get half a point in his pool for having an inkling about an upset but not the stones to stick with it. When it happens, though, I make a mental note that I might be better off next year sticking with my first instincts and ignoring all of the competing advice in the days following Selection Sunday. I usually forget this mental note by April.

For better or worse, my final bracket rarely looks much like the one I fill out during the Selection Show. Last night, I put Ohio State, Kansas, UConn, and Pitt in the Final Four. Kinda lame. Perhaps I should see a gastroenterologist if my gut tells me that UConn will have enough legs--and Kemba Walkerenough March magic--to win six games after winning five games in five days at the Big East Tournament. I picked a fair amount of first- and second-round upsets, but the only team lower than a 3-seed in my Elite Eight was Gonzaga, which suggests I may need to return to the drawing board.

Every year, there are a handful of teams in line for a seed outside the top 4 that I have a good feeling about and consider good candidates to pull off a few upsets before the brackets are revealed. Inevitably, the tournament committee matches at least two of those teams against each other in the first round. Last year, it was Richmond vs. St. Mary's in a 7-10 game. I picked the Spiders to advance and upset Villanova in the second round, but it was the Gaels who survived the first game and knocked off the Wildcats. This year it's Vanderbilt vs. Richmond in a 5-12 matchup. My gut says Richmond. I'll probably go with the Commodores. 

Of the Pac-10 teams in the field, I liked Washington's chances the best before the bracket was revealed, but the Huskies drew a tough second-round matchup in UNC. Arizona is the only Pac-10 team I see advancing into the Sweet 16. For now.

So what are your initial thoughts about this year's bracket? Will you change your picks multiple times between now and Thursday? Will you regret it later?

If you haven't filled out a bracket, you can find an excellent one here.