Busted bracket? How to make sense of March Madness

A stack of papers three feet high. Bloodshot eyes. A pile of pencil shavings that cover your desk mixed with fingernails you probably bit off.

Is it finals week? Not quite. With Selection Sunday a thing of the past, it’s time for the NCAA basketball tournament, March Madness, and perhaps more importantly, time to fill out a bracket.

For those Emerson students who won’t fill out a bracket, you should know that making these choices can be right up there with deciding Allston vs. Brighton or Keystone vs. Natty.

This can be one of the most nerve racking, second-guessing processes of your semester. Talk about getting cold feet. Filling out a bracket isn’t quite like getting married, but some treat it with the same importance.

Here is how to beat the stress and come away with a bracket that you can at least hang your head on.

The most important thing is to acknowledge all allegiances you hold. Obviously, there is no alma mater pride with Emerson students. But the best brackets always come from the students of small schools that pull huge upsets.

In 2006, the top bracket scores on Facebook were those of George Mason students, when the Patriots made a Cinderella run to the Final Four. But if you do pull for a certain team, try to stick with them. It makes watching the tournament that much easier.

Don’t be a wimp. Seriously. Everyone hates a bracket that has four number one seeds in the Final Four. I’m not saying pick all upsets, but take some risks. In the first round, ignore all seeds unless they are a one, two, or three. Those teams are locks. If any of them lose, odds are most people didn’t pick those games correctly anyway.

Pick upsets. Every 5-seed vs. 12-seed upset you get correct is like getting an ‘A’ on a test. Put in the time, like you would on an exam, and you’ll snag yourself a pretty pick.

Try to avoid having a winner in mind from the start. These aren’t the pros. The kids playing are kids, just like you and me. Anything is possible, and every game is a new animal.

Participate with your friends. Sure, a great bracket always makes you feel good, but beating your friend can feel even better.

Everyone has his or her own form of bracketology when it comes to picking a tournament winner (including myself), but there really is no ‘wrong’ way to fill out a bracket. Go with your gut.