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When it comes to brackets, go with your gut

Every now and then, near the end of a particularly long week, I feel the need to super-size my morning Starbucks — adding two more shots to my quadruple espresso, sipping on a six-shooter of sorts.

The order has been known to earn me a look of disbelief or three, or maybe those are the eyes of sympathy.

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This is going to be a long week.

Today is a six-shooter Monday.

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Going from the office to the arena, from the office to the arena, from the office to the arena, from the office to the arena, from Wednesday through Saturday wore me out. Add the "opportunity" to play some early Saturday morning hoops against a pair of pro-prospect 7-footers, and daylight savings time, and — I need a nap!

But, there's no time for that nap in sight, so, again, multiply that double by three or that triple by two, add a double to that quad, and make it six shots, Cuban style if we're being specific.

By the time you read this, the brackets will be set. But, as I write this (on Saturday) we're still several bubble-busting buzzer-beaters, and a day-and-a-half away from Selection Sunday. Hopefully I make it to Monday. There's a pretty good chance, especially with daylight saving time, that I bypass the snooze button altogether, ignore the 4:30 a.m. alarm, and sleep until at least 7.

This was one of those "be careful what you wish for, because you just may get it" kind of weekends. The last three had gone by quickly, with no real excitement to speak of. For the past few weeks, I'd gotten to Monday, been asked how my weekend was and/or what I'd done, and I couldn't really say I'd done too much, certainly not much of note.

I'd done some work each weekend, and came into the past few Mondays with a real sense of wanting to take a day off. But, this week, after this weekend and the four-day stretch of games, this Monday I'm going to feel more like I need the day off. But, no such luck. I probably won't see a day off until late July. We're entering our busy seasons at work.

But, what about the games? This is the sports section. It's the first week of the big dance.

You've been told I know a little bit about basketball. You want to know how to fill out your brackets.

My advice — don't gamble! Seriously. The house always wins, and when it comes to betting on sports, well, there's no way that every game ends up within a half of a point of the money line every time by chance.

On a related note, there's also no way lawyers and doctors by day who are referees by night and on the weekends can make so many blatantly bad calls without an agenda of sorts or absent of some sort of outside or unscrupulous influence. Trust me, don't bet.

Some of the best advice I ever got was during my freshman year of college. I was telling my dad about how my friends were betting on games. It seemed so easy. It seemed like something I could do — like something I knew enough about to figure out and to win a little extra spending money. My dad told me that if I ever wanted to bet, to take the money I was thinking about gambling away, put it in an envelope, and send it to him.

"Then, when you come home for break, I'll punch you in the stomach. It'll be just like gambling."

I watched friends lose thousands. Bookies stopped taking their bets. It was sad. I've watched a friend go so far down the rabbit hole that he once stayed glued to the TV during a 60-plus-point blowout because the line was 63.5.

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But, brackets are just for fun. Really. The guy in your office who, knowing you're into sports, and wanting to be friendly, awkwardly asks how the games are going, can win your bracket pool. So can the IT guy who spends his weekends playing Dota and Halo. Your girlfriend who picks teams based on her favorite colors can bury you.

Her girlfriend that picks based on the theory of (i) whose mascot is cuter, and/or (ii) which mascot would win in a fight can, and probably has beaten you, too.

You'll never see me giving tips on any sort of fantasy sports, simply because I don't play them. I think they're a fool's errand and about as productive and/or based in reality as, well, as Dota and Halo.

But, the brackets are just for fun. What's $5-$20 for three weeks of fun?

Betting "chalk" is a safe play, and anyone who tells you otherwise is over-thinking things, and/or thinks they know more than they do.

Don't bet against your alma mater. It's just bad karma. They'll either lose, and you'll know you jinxed them. Or, they'll win, and you won't be able to call yourself a real fan because you bet against them. That being said...

If you went to Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan State, Oklahoma, UNC, Villanova, or Virginia (or, shaking my head at the fact that I'm about to say this, Kentucky), picking your school may be a safe bet this year. That said...

Betting on your school can be a losing proposition too. Betting with your heart is wrong. But it's so hard not to when your head tells you it's the right thing to do too.

Go with your gut.

Ignore your East Coast bias. There are a lot of teams that play basketball out west too. (Though, outside of Oregon, they may be non-factors for the most part this year.)

If your office, your friends, and/or your framily does their pool online, definitely have a good username for your pool. Something that speaks to who you are. (Mine's been "softinthepost" for a few years because, well, I am, and my game is.)

(It's Saturday afternoon and) I'm off to the arena one last time, hoping to see my Tar Heels win the ACC tournament in-person. And, having put that in writing ahead of time, I guess, by the time you read this, we'll know if that whole jinxing your team thing is real.

Get your brackets in before noon on Thursday, and enjoy the madness. "One Shining Moment" will be playing again all too soon.

"Hi. Yes. Can I get six shots of espresso, ristretto style? Yes. Six. Thanks."

410-857-7896

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