Dear reader: This is the year.
We mean it this time.
No more bad brackets. No more busted upset picks. No more of your Final Four locks getting bounced in the first weekend. No more Cinderellas raining on your office pool parade. No more colleagues picking teams based on their favorite mascots and somehow beating you.
You're taking home the grand prize this year. And we're going to help you do it.
It's NCAA tournament time. Play-in games start Tuesday, the first round starts Thursday and we've got everything you need - right here on this page - for you to read up, make your educated predictions and finally - finally - be the object of envy in your office. Or family. Or in the group of fellow loners you were randomly pooled up against on ESPN.com.
So what are you waiting for? It's time to get reading!
Without further ado...
First up: Print your bracket
Or print five of them, because we know this is going to take some trial-and-error. And even if you're playing online, you can at least show everyone you correctly picked that 15-over-2 upset (we're talking to you, Michigan fans last year).
Now that that's taken care of...
Second: A primer on your team
Let's face it: A majority of people reading this cheat sheet are Michigan or Michigan State fans, so we're probably dealing with a lot of people thinking the Wolverines or Spartans are going to pull a 2014 UConn and win it all despite being a No. 7 seed or lower.
So before you go homertastic with your bracket, allow us to fill you in on what to expect from U-M and MSU in this tournament.
• Jeff Seidel: U-M's amazing ride to Big Ten title
• Michigan's foe: Oklahoma State efficient on offense
• Graham Couch: MSU's NCAA tourney draw manageable, full of intrigue
Third: A primer on every other team
Time for the fun part: A look at the entire 68-team field. Who will make the Final Four? Who will win it all? We have the breakdown on every squad.
• East analysis: The road goes through Villanova
• South analysis: UCLA could upend Kentucky, UNC
• Midwest analysis: Is this the year Kansas gets back?
• West analysis: Consider Arizona over Gonzaga
Fourth: Who are the sleeper picks?
If you're going to win your office pool, you may need to throw at least one Hail Mary or two. That's where the Cinderella picks come in.
Every year, there's that one team that unexpectedly flips brackets onto their heads. Last year, that team was Middle Tennessee, which shoved a dagger into many brackets in this state. Don't let your bracket be one of them this time.
• Who to watch: Three upsets to pick in the NCAA tournament
• Video: Look out for these Cinderellas
Fifth: What else should I know?
Even if you know all 68 teams like the back of your hand, here are some tidbits and factoids to take into account. You don't want to be that person who picks, say, Oregon to go all the way before realizing one of its best players is out all tournament with an ACL injury!
• Friendly tips: How to fill out your bracket this year
• 10 things to know: Key injuries, hot streaks, Cinderellas
• Vegas odds: UNC and Duke are the early favorites
Sixth: The expert predictions
After all, these people are paid to cover this stuff.
• Free Press picks: Who do we have making the Final Four, winning it all?
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