It’s hard not to flop in this pool

It was selection Monday. No, this had nothing to do with the NCAA, it was all about you and me.

The day after the NCAA filled out its men’s basketball tournament, the rest of us wannabe bracketologists turned to Page B3 in The Republic and tore out the chart.

Sixty-eight teams. Yikes. I probably have a better shot of hitting the lottery than winning one of these pools.

Even so, I will plop down $5 or $10 in an effort to beat someone who actually is paying attention. Perhaps you can relate?

So how to choose?

On Monday night, I turned to the experts at ESPN for advice. ESPN produces a show “Bracketology” that I was hoping would point me in the right direction. Two hours of precious information that would give me the edge on my opponents.

After that time, ESPN’s panel came out with the amazing conclusion that the four No. 1 seeds would reach the Final Four. Shocking, just shocking. There’s two hours I can’t get back.

Oh, I understand, the winner of this thing is not going to be a North Florida or Robert Morris. Putting one of those “Cinderella” teams all the way through to the championship game would be committing bracket suicide.

Everyone loves to talk about the underdogs, but the last 10 champs have been Connecticut, Louisville, Kentucky, Connecticut, Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, Florida, Florida and North Carolina. I could keep going.

As far as the runner-up, in the past 10 seasons, only Butler in 2010 and 2011 could be considered a surprise in terms of being a “mid-major.”

The lesson? Make sure your finalists come from a power conference. No matter how enchanted you are by Stephen F. Austin and Northern Iowa, don’t do it.

Make sure your “upset” teams, at least the ones going deep into the tournament, are from power conferences. Using Utah or Michigan State as an Elite Eight contender, at least to me, makes more sense than hoping Alabama-Birmingham makes a nice run. I would take a No. 11-seeded UCLA team over a No. 7 Wichita State, even one that has five Sweet 16 showings in program history.

Wichita State has 13 NCAA Tournament wins overall. UCLA has 97.

The Bruins, even in an off year, are used to playing the big boys. Wichita State is coming off a loss to Illinois State. Do you want your five bucks riding on a team that just lost to Illinois State?

All those early-round upsets are nice, but your pool fate will be decided by your ability to get teams into the Final Four. In my pool, I am using a strategy called blatant favoritism. I am picking my alma mater, Arizona, to beat Kentucky in the semifinal.

Then I use what I call “which horse winked at me?” strategy or pure luck. I am going with three Wildcats squads to make the Final Four in Arizona, Kentucky and Villanova.

After that, it’s just to pick up a few early-round upsets that might earn some key points. How about a Buffalo, which is coached by former Duke star Bobby Hurley? The Bulls lost to Kentucky (71-52) and Wisconsin (68-56) in their games against top-ranked teams this season, but were competitive. Could Buffalo beat West Virginia? Probably not, but at least the Bulls have a chance.

How about that play-in game between Manhattan and Hampton? Hampton traveled 16,553 miles through the air to reach its opponents this season. Sounds like jet lag to me. I am going with Manhattan.

When all is said and done, don’t be shocked when your selection of Kentucky or Duke to win it all does a crash-and-burn by the Sweet 16.

After all, can you name the team with the most losses in NCAA Tournament history?

That would be Kentucky (47).

Jay Heater is the Republic sports editor. He can be reached at or 379-5632.