When you fill out your bracket, do you do it by region or round-to-round?
Do you stew over a few games along the way, or do you just go all stream of consciousness and follow the first impulse?
Did you have yours done on Sunday night or do you wait until the last minute, after letting the research and stats and the going-back-and-forth all come together right before the play-in games (sorry NCAA - The First Four) begin?
In my case, it's round-to-round, stew, and wait to the last minute.
This year, I wasn't even going to fill one out. I was just going to watch the games for the sheer enjoyment, but I changed my mind. I actually thought of channeling my inner George Costanza and do everything opposite of what I've done in the past. But I'm simply too much Popeye - I yam what I yam. And my tried and true formula kept bringing me back to one thing:
Louisville will beat Indiana for the national title.
If you want a good laugh, go to http://tinyurl.com/cpnl9dw on KSDK.com and you can see my trail of tears through the regions. But what it came down to for me was Louisville is statistically the best defensive team in the country and Indiana is the best offensive team in the country - not in points per game, but rather in the breakdown of points per possession.
And defense wins championships.
I think the Cardinals have the holy trinity of what it takes to win it all: good guard play, experience and peaking at the right time. I really like the Hoosiers and the way Tom Crean has brought the program back from the dead, but my little voice says that Rick Pitino will find a way to keep Cody Zeller or Victor Oladipo from taking over the game.
I just pray that Pitino doesn't break out that awful Colonel Sanders white suit on Championship Monday.
And there is one proviso to this 67-game equation: that Louisville doesn't stumble against Saint Louis U. in the round of 16. But it's very possible.
The Billikens won't get rattled by Louisville's pressure. They'll find a way to play the game at their tempo. They won't turn the ball over and they'll find a way to keep it close - SLU hasn't lost a game in regulation since November 29th - or two days before Rick Majerus passed away. And don't discount the Majerus effect lifting the Billikens in a big game, and playing the number one team in the tournament with everything on the line seems to qualify.
The tournament just keeps getting better, and for me that is defined by the number of teams that could legitimately put a six-game winning streak together and cut the nets down in Atlanta. And this year, rather than there being two or three teams that are head and shoulders above everybody else, there are at least a half dozen teams that might get a leg up on the rest of the field and win.
And that's a recipe for lots of last-second drama, announcers going, "Ohhhhhhhhhhh!", and One Shining Moment.
And it's all set to begin.
Remember, you can't fill out your brackets in pencil.