The Bracket Whisperer offers his expert NCAA tournament advice

And now for another installment from Columnist Of The People (COTP), otherwise known as a pathetic Dear Abby-knockoff for casual sports fans.

Today's topic: How to fill out your NCAA tournament bracket.

COTP, otherwise known as the Bracket Whisperer, has everything you need to win your office pool. And we begin here: The more you know about college basketball, the less likely you'll win.

Facts.

Sorry.

Been there and learned the hard way.

So if you think that "USC Trojans" are a condom company or "Charleston" is a dance that originated in the 1920s, you've just been established as the office favorite.

Example: I finished behind someone last year who calls the entire undertaking "filling out the grid" instead of a "bracket." Fancy that. A grid. As if it's an overview of the streets of Manhattan.

(Sigh).

So as you ponder your grid, here is only the most scientific advice:

• Mascots. Which is better? The Texas A&M vs. Providence game, for instance. The Aggies and the Friars. Hmmm. COTP once knew an Aggie in New London: The great Aggie O'Neill, grandmother of GameDay play-by-play guy Casey O'Neill. Aggie was far more interesting than some Friar from a monastery.

Or, for example, if your name is Bonnie, you'd always pick the Bonnies of St. Bonaventure.

• Colors. Which team has the better color? What is your favorite color? If it mauve, you're out of luck. But if it's green, you'd go with Michigan State. Remember this, too: Since 2004, Louisville is the only school without blue on its uniform to win a national championship. (COTP knows you just looked that one up.)

• Where would you rather spend time? This isn't necessarily easy. Take the game between Wichita State (Wichita, KS) and Marshall (Huntington, WV). Neither would be considered lovely this time of year. (Or any time of year). But the game featuring UCLA and St. Bonaventure is kind of a no brainer. Sunny Los Angeles or frigid Olean, N.Y.?

• Singing. This could be fun. You'd always pick Duke because who doesn't like belting out Gene Chandler?

Duke, Duke, Duke, Duke of Earl, Duke, Duke, Duke of Earl ... (bet that's stuck in your head the rest of the day now).

• Ask a stranger. We all know someone who thinks nothing of beginning a conversation with a stranger. COTP is still mastering the technique.

Perhaps this:

You: "Excuse me, but what do think about Rhode Island and Oklahoma?"

Stranger: "They're both part of the 48 contiguous states."

You: "No, their upcoming NCAA tournament game."

Stranger: "Oh. Well, I like singing 'Oklahoma, where the wind comes sweeping down the plane' more than I like driving on I-95 in Rhode Island, where state troopers have too much time on their hands."

• Best names. Which team has the more entertaining names? Example: Villanova has a kid named Donte DiVincenzo. Last year, Nova had Ryan Arcidiacano, too. They could be entrees. "Yes, I'd like the Scallops DiVincenzo, please." Or imagine being on Wheel of Fortune with those two names in the puzzle. You'd say, "I'd like to buy a vowel, Vanna," and you'd hear more bells than a pinball machine.

• SAT scores. OK, so this is admittedly harder with Boston College out of the tournament. But, you know, you'd kind of have to pick Penn over Kansas.

• Caloric intake. Arizona vs. Buffalo. Arizona iced tea or a Buffalo wing? Some of these no carb people would take the wing, reasoning that there's too much sugar in the iced tea. But what if wings give you heartburn?

See how scientific this is?

• COTP's only non-scientific advice: Davidson over Kentucky. Davidson's win over Rhode Island was responsible for knocking evil, icky Notre Dame out of the tournament. So we kind of love Davidson for that.

So there it is. When you win, please be sure to give COTP all the credit.

Good luck with your grid.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro

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