The key to a winning bracket is in the center -- the guy who gets the Final Four right usually wins, because those picks are worth the lion's share of bracket points. Concentrate your energy on the last weekend of the tournament, says Lang. Decide who you think will win the tournament -- and who you think they'll beat in the semis -- then blossom out from there. Once you've done that, you can have some fun with the less meaningful, first-round choices.
II. Thou shalt pick the right 12-seed.
Upsets are what makes bracketology fun, and even casual fans have heard of the traditional 12-over-5 first-round topples. But it's not enough to take a stab and pick a dozen-seed to win, says Stoll. "Focus on 12-seeds that have lost 6 or fewer games for the season [13-16 overall against 5-seeds] or 12s that are coming off a loss in their previous game [10-13 against 5-seeds]." The holy grail? A 12-seed that satisfies both criteria -- they're 3-0 all-time in round 1.
III. Honor thy chalk.
Upsets are amusing, but taking the pot is much more fun. And as cute as you'd like to be, rocking chalk is a better strategy than trying to get every upset. "Higher-seeded teams are higher-seeded for a reason," says Dr. Bob. Don't outsmart yourself: 63 percent of Final Four teams in the past 17 years have been seeded Nos. 1 or 2.
IV. Thou shalt not put low seeds in the Final Four.
Sounds redundant, but it bears repeating: It's nice to think you've pegged the next George Mason, but don't bet on it (and many of you are betting on it). "Do not pick a team seeded 6 or worse to make your Final Four," says Stoll. Only 4 of 68 Final Four teams in the past 17 years have been seeded 6 or lower.
V. Thou shalt advance all 1-seeds to the Elite Eight.
More from the chalk department: 71 percent of 1-seeds make it to the regional final, and they've got even more overwhelming odds in round 2 -- teams seeded 8 or 9 have only advanced to the Sweet Sixteen a combined 6.6 percent of the time. If you're going to pick a 1-seed to fall, though, round 4 is the place to do it -- almost half of them lose in the quarterfinals.