Selection Sunday is March 17th this year. Brackets should be available to make your picks sometime after 8 PM Eastern Time that night.
In the NCAA’s continuing effort to mess with pool administrators everywhere, they have expanded the tournament field from 65 teams to 68 teams. Basically, all this means is that there will now be four play-in games instead of one. These four games (called the First Four) will be played on Tuesday and Wednesday night before the “real” 64-team tournament starts on Thursday. In prior years the single #64-vs-#65 play-in game could easily be ignored since nobody in their right mind would ever pick the winner of that game to advance past the #1 seed. But now two of the play-in games will feature bubble teams playing for a #10-#12 seed. So, this presents a bit of a challenge. It’s not feasible to require people to get their picks in before Tuesday night and pick the play-in games. It’s also not feasible to force everyone to wait until late Wednesday night (after the play-in games are done) before they can enter their picks. So what’s the solution? Easy – we’re going to treat the four play-in games just like the single play-in game was treated in the past. You don’t need to pick the winners in these games, but you still have the option of picking the play-in winner to advance in the “real” tournament.
An example might explain this better. Say the two teams playing in for a #12 seed are USC and Iowa and they’ll eventually play #5 Florida. Starting Sunday night a Tournament Entry page will be available with a normal 64-team bracket. You’ll see “Florida” as one choice and “USC/Iowa” as the other. If you think the USC-Iowa winner will beat Florida, just pick “USC/Iowa” to advance and you’re good to go. It doesn’t matter which team wins the play-in game. As long as the #12 seed moves past Florida, you get the game right. Where it gets a little tricky is if you think USC would beat Florida, but Iowa would not. In that case you may want to wait until after the play-in games are done to submit your picks. But don’t wait until the last second!
As always, anyone is invited to play in the pool. You are free to and encouraged to invite as many people as you want to participate. The more brackets submitted, the bigger the pot.