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Madness scientists: Hoops advice from homegrown bracketologists

March 19, 2013|By Jack M Silverstein, @readjack | For RedEye

It's NCAA tournament time! And that means brackets. Almost everyone fills one out, but what is the best strategy? And should you even strategize, or just pick the high seeds?

Well, RedEye found four people confident in their bracket skills and picked their brains on their bracketology methodology.

Paul M. Banks, 35, Lakeview, @paulmbanks

Illinois alumnus

Owner of TheSportsBank.net

"I've won two pools in the past five years: one had more than 900 participants. I've done sports talk radio guest spots on college hoops for ESPN, CBS and Clear Channel affiliates all over the world. I've covered a Final Four and numerous conference tournaments from press row. UCLA coach Ben Howland randomly partied with me at a wedding in Napa a few years ago. Steve Lavin and I talk on occasion. And I stayed at a Holiday Inn express once."

Brian Glickman, 28, New York City by way of Deerfield, @dmbriguy7

Illinois alumnus

"I have won 3 brackets since 2003. Largest one was about 150 people."

David Kmiecik, 31, Old Town, @david_kmiecik

Marquette alumnus

"I have won NCAA tourney pools in 1999 and 2004, both times UConn won the national title. (Sucks I didn't pick UConn in 2011.) I am a huge nerd and do a bracketology for thesportsbank.net and (humble brag time) correctly picked more teams to their appropriate seed and opening round location this year than ESPN's Joe Lunardi did. So I feel like I know a thing or two about the tournament."

Jen Lada, 32, River North, @JenLada

Sports anchor and reporter for CSN Chicago

Marquette alumna

"Been a 'bracketologist' since before I had brackets on my teeth. My family does a pool every year. Mom usually wins. That's just a karma thing. (Hey, maybe she should be your sensei.) I have played in a 200-person pool for the last few years. Done well but I've also over-thought it and been bounced badly. It builds character."


How much college basketball do you watch during the season?

BANKS: Dozens and dozens of games. I even watch a lot of DePaul and Northwestern, so you know I'm hard core. I'll watch every Illinois and Michigan State game in person or on television. And I follow the sport closely even in November and December, watching all the holiday tournaments, while the rest of America is obsessed with football.

GLICKMAN: A lot. I watch every Illini game and watch a lot of other Big Ten games—mainly to make fun of my friends when their teams lose (Indiana, Michigan, etc).

KMIECIK: An unhealthy amount. I used to do an article for The Sports Bank where I tracked all the games I watched during the year, and from 2009-2012, watched more than 1,000 games from start to finish. (Yes, I still had a life during college hoops season.) I am the guy who DVRs games and tries to avoid seeing the score until I'm able to watch it, and then gets mad if someone tells me the final before I get to watch said DVR'd game.

LADA: Mostly Big Ten and Big East action having covered Marquette and Wisconsin for the last seven years. Followed the Horizon League too. I watch a lot of the conference tourney championship games as a warmup for the Dance. Also catch highlights every night.


When you watch regular-season hoops, what are potential indicators of tourney success that you watch for?

BANKS: Teams whose schedule is hard so they're ready to battle later. Also, teams that have good inside-outside combinations, and the ability to play mutliple styles and tempo. I pay no attention to conference tournament performance as an indicator of NCAA tournament performance. There isn't a strong correlation. Momentum continues about as much as it stops.

GLICKMAN: Determination and grit. I tend to lean more toward teams that just show that "it" factor and have overcome adversity. Also, playing a challenging schedule is good preparation for the tourney.

KMIECIK: A big key for me is matchups—which teams do what well, which teams struggle against a certain style. Experience can always play a factor, as can guard play and being battle tested. I do think the tournament is a beast in itself though and a lot of what we see in the regular season can be disregarded depending on which teams get hot or cold as the calendar turns to March.

LADA: Depth. Health. A go-to, ice in the veins, scorer. A proven ability to make a late run and/or withstand an opponent's. Have they shown they can handle the environment and not allow the stage to swallow them? Experience matters. I also like a team with one really bad loss during the season. Any dominant team is allowed a couple. Takes some pressure off. If a top-seeded team hasn't had one, I worry it will happen in the brackets. And lastly, all else equal, I give the nod to the tenured, savant coaches with years of tournament success.

Describe your strategy for filling out your bracket. Be as detailed as possible.

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