The bracket is set. Now the question becomes, what method will you use to fill it in?
Will you go the Kenpom, RPI, BPI route? Will you spend hours compiling statistical data in endless rows of color coded columns in Excel spreadsheets? Will you look at teams with a hot hand? Convince yourself you've identified a dark horse? Will you just march your alma mater or favorite school into the Final Four, because you can't possibly contain your amped homerism? Or will you make your picks like that guy/girl in your office who hasn't watched a game all season and yet is always in the top three of your office pool every spring on blind, stinking luck alone?
When it comes to March Madness, in a single elimination tournament, Murphy's Law rules the land - anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.
Arguably, the Tournament is far more enjoyable if you resist the urge to fill in a bracket at all. Ride or die with your team. Cheer for every underdog, every buzzer beater, every heartbreak, every Charles Barkelyism between game action. Filling in a bracket, even if you don't really care, inevitably will make you feel like you've failed an I.Q. test drafted by a professor of chaos theory.
Whatever you choose, just have fun with it. More importantly, it's time to start coming up with a passable fake cough so you can miss work Thursday and Friday.
Now, meet the field! Starting with...
The South Region
#1 Kansas vs #16 Austin Peay - Thursday, 3/17 @ 3 p.m. (CT) on TNT
Coach: Bill Self - NCAA Tourney Record 37-16 with 2 Final Fours ('08, '12 Kansas) & 1 Championship ('08 Kansas)
Leading Scorer: Sr. Forward - Perry Ellis 16.7 ppg
Kenpom Rating: #1
Tournament Appearances: 45 - Most Recent 2015
Deepest Tourney Run: National Champions - 2008 (most recent shown)
Austin Peay Governors
Coach: Dave Loos - NCAA Tourney Record 0-3
Leading Scorer: Sr. Center - Chris Horton 18.9 ppg
Kenpom Rating: #212
NCAA Tourney Appearances: 7 - Most Recent 2008
Deepest Tourney Run: Sweet Sixteen - 1973
For Kansas, this marks the sixth time they've been a 1-seed in the last 10 tournaments. The last two U.S. Presidential election years, Self's 'Hawks have made Final Four runs.
#8 Colorado vs #9 Connecticut - Thursday, 3/17 @ 12:30 p.m. (CT) on TNT
Coach: Tad Boyle - NCAA Tourney Record 1-3
Leading Scorer: Sr. Forward - Josh Scott 16.1 ppg
Kenpom Rating: #55
NCAA Tourney Appearances: 14 - Most Recent 2014
Deepest Tourney Run: Final Four - 1955
Coach: Kevin Ollie - NCAA Tourney Record 6-0 with 1 Final Four ('14 UCONN) & 1 Championship ('14 UCONN)
Leading Scorer: Sr. Forward - Shonn Miller 12.8 ppg
Kenpom Rating: #25
NCAA Tourney Appearances: 32 - Most Recent 2014
Deepest Tourney Run: National Champions - 2014
Quick, name the only school to win four National Championships in the last 16 seasons. Not Kentucky. Not Duke. Not Kansas. If you said UCONN, you are correct! And the last two came from Huskies teams who had to play like mad men in their conference tournaments just to get into the big dance. Just like this year's team, who was an 80 foot shot attempt away from being left out of the field. As in 2011 and '14, could this UCONN team being catching fire at just the right time?
#5 Maryland vs #12 South Dakota State - Friday, 3/18 @ 3:30 p.m. (CT) on TBS
Coach: Mark Turgeon - NCAA Tourney Record 6-6
Leading Scorer: So. Guard - Melo Trimble 14.4 ppg
Kenpom Rating: #23
NCAA Tourney Appearances: 26 - Most Recent 2015
Deepest Tourney Run: National Champions - 2002
South Dakota State Jackrabbits
Coach: Scott Nagy - NCAA Tourney Record 0-2
Leading Scorer: Fr. Forward - Mike Daum 15.2 ppg
Kenpom Rating: #80
NCAA Tourney Appearances: 3 - Most Recent 2013
Deepest Tourney Run: Round of 64 - 2013
Before the season Maryland was a trendy Final Four pick. They spent all but the last two polls of the season in the top 10, sitting as high as #2 as recently as February 8.
#4 California vs #13 Hawaii - Friday, 3/18 @ 1 p.m. (CT) on TBS
Cal Golden Bears
Coach: Cuonzo Martin - NCAA Tourney Record 3-1
Leading Scorer: Sr. Guard - Tyrone Wallace 15.3 ppg
Kenpom Rating: #21
NCAA Tourney Appearances: 19 - Most Recent 2013
Deepest Tourney Run: National Champions - 1959
Hawaii Rainbow Warriors
Coach: Eran Ganot - NCAA Tourney Record 0-0
Leading Scorer: Jr. Forward - Stefan Jankovic 15.7 ppg
Kenpom Rating: #61
NCAA Tourney Appearances: 5 - Most Recent 2002
Deepest Tourney Run: Round of 32 - 1972
With 27 wins this 2016 Rainbow Warriors team has already posted the best season in the history of Hawaii's program.
#6 Arizona vs #11 Vanderbilt/Wichita State - Thursday, 3/17 @ 8:20 p.m. (CT) on TNT
Coach: Sean Miller - NCAA Tourney Record 17-8
Leading Scorer: Sr. Forward - Ryan Anderson 15.5 ppg
Kenpom Rating: #16
NCAA Tourney Appearances: 33 - Most Recent 2015
Deepest Tourney Run: National Champions - 1997
Play-in Game - #11 Vanderbilt vs #11 Wichita State - Tuesday, 3/15 @ 8:10 p.m. (CT) on truTV
Coach: Kevin Stallings - NCAA Tourney Record 6-8
Leading Scorer: So. Guard - Wade Baldwin IV 14.3 ppg
Kenpom Rating: #27
NCAA Tourney Appearances: 14 - Most Recent 2012
Deepest Tourney Run: Elite Eight - 1965
Wichita State Shockers
Coach: Gregg Marshall - NCAA Tourney Record 8-11 with 1 Final Four ('13 Wichita St.)
Leading Scorer: Sr. Guard - Ron Baker 14.2 ppg
Kenpom Rating: #12
NCAA Tourney Appearances: 13 - Most Recent 2015
Deepest Tourney Run: Final Four - 2013
This marks the final tournament appearance for senior Shocker stars Baker and Fred VanVleet, who, as freshman, helped Wichita State reach the Final Four for the first time since 1965.
As for the Arizona Wildcats, they are coming off of back to back 30+ win, Elite Eight run seasons ended by Wisconsin. With the Badgers finally out of their bracket, will Miller and his 'Cats finally make the Final Four?
#3 Miami vs #14 Buffalo - Thursday, 3/17 @ 5:50 p.m. (CT) on TNT
Coach: Jim Larranaga - NCAA Tourney Record 7-6 with 1 Final Four ('06 George Mason)
Leading Scorer: Sr. Guard - Sheldon McClellan 15.8 ppg
Kenpom Rating: #13
NCAA Tourney Appearances: 8 - Most Recent 2013
Deepest Tourney Run: Sweet Sixteen - 2013
Coach: Nate Oats - NCAA Tourney Record 0-0
Leading Scorer: So. Guard - Lamonte Bearden 13.6 ppg
Kenpom Rating: #131
NCAA Tourney Appearances: 2 - Most Recent 2015
Deepest Tourney Run: Round of 64 - 2015
Jim Larranaga is just the second coach in Miami basketball's 53 year history to guide the Hurricanes to more than one tournament appearance. And a year after Bulls head coach Bobby Hurley led Buffalo to its first ever tournament appearance before bolting for Arizona State, Nate Oats duplicated the feat in his very first year of coaching anywhere.
#7 Iowa vs #10 Temple - Friday, 3/18 @ 2:10 p.m. (CT) on truTV
Coach: Fran McCaffery - NCAA Tourney Record 3-7
Leading Scorer: Sr. Forward - Jarrod Uthoff 18.9 ppg
Kenpom Rating: #20
NCAA Tourney Appearances: 25 - Most Recent 2015
Deepest Tourney Run: National Runner-Up - 1956
Coach: Fran Dunphy - NCAA Tourney Record 3-15
Leading Scorer: Sr. Guard - Quenton DeCosey 15.6 ppg
Kenpom Rating: #86
NCAA Tourney Appearances: 32 - Most Recent 2013
Deepest Tourney Run: Final Four - 1958
This game is the battle of Frans. Both Fran Dunphy of Temple and Fran McCaffery of Iowa spent a huge chunk of their coaching career in the mid-major ranks before landing jobs at bigger basketball schools - Dunphy 17 years at Penn, and McCaffery 13 at Lehigh, UNC Greensboro, and Siena. Both have yet to taste significant tournament success.
#2 Villanova vs #15 UNC Asheville - Friday, 3/18 @ 11:40 a.m. on truTV
Coach: Jay Wright - NCAA Tourney Record 14-12 with 1 Final Four ('09 Villanova)
Leading Scorer: Jr. Guard - Josh Hart 15.5 ppg
Kenpom Rating: #5
NCAA Tourney Appearances: 36 - Most Recent 2015
Deepest Tourney Run: National Champions - 1985
UNC Asheville Bulldogs
Coach: Nicholas McDevitt - NCAA Tourney Record 0-0
Leading Scorer: Fr. Guard - Dylan Smith 13.5 ppg
Kenpom Rating: #116
NCAA Tourney Appearances: 4 - Most Recent 2012
Deepest Tourney Run: Round of 64 - 2012
After reaching the Final Four in 2009 Villanova hasn't even made it out of the first weekend of the tournament. But it's not their fault. They've been grossly over seeded in recent years seeing as how Villanova has been riding the undeserved residual respect for the Big East which now exists as a nothing more than mid-major conference zombie of its once powerful self.