T his is, without a doubt, the most wonderful time of the year. Forget Christmas. This is the time of year where we should get school off and businesses should shut down. Over the next three weeks, students will become distracted wondering how they should fill out their brackets. Workers’ minds will wander as they constantly check the web for updates. But all of this is accepted. Everyone wants advice on how to bet and wants to know the insider information.

I have no insider information to offer. So rather than boring you by reprimanding the NCAA for forgetting that Brigham Young doesn’t roll on Sundays and not respecting the Big East’s best teams, I will tell you how to make the most of the next three weeks of ecstasy. Without further ado, the “Do’s” and “Don’ts” to enjoying the NCAA Tournament …

n Do make a bracket that takes up a wall in your living room. There is no better way to make the tournament seem larger than life than blowing it up on an 8-by-12 wall. You can either just write plainly on the wall with a Sharpie (although your landlord probably won’t like it and might have to paint it afterwards) or you can go to Meijer and build one from poster board. With an exhibit like this, there is no forgetting that the tournament is in the front of everyone’s mind. Plus, it’s a conversation piece.

n Don’t talk about how good or bad your bracket is going. Too often every year I hear someone at a party say, “God, if only Kansas didn’t choke again, I would be money” or “It’s a good thing I knew that Oklahoma was so good.” Save it. It will just piss off anyone around you. In a tournament pool, rarely do those who know the most about basketball win and if they do, it is plain luck. Just relax and have fun with it. Don’t claim that you knew what would happen. Part of what makes pools so great is that anyone can win.

n Do fill out as many brackets as possible. I liken this to the old women that play Bingo with five cards at a time. Not only does it increase your chances of winning, but it also helps keep your interest for the entire day. Also, since someone will come out of nowhere to win an online bracket challenge, you have to make sure that your entry is diverse. As with other brackets, don’t pick every No. 1-seed, pick a No. 12 over No. 5 upset, etc. That said, don’t make it ridiculous. It is so disappointing to see yourself at the top of the ESPN.com rankings after one round, just to see that you have Southern Illinois in the Final Four.

n Don’t bet on the NIT to pass the time until the next NCAA Tournament game. This is just bad business. The NIT, while enjoyable in small doses, is no way to make money. There is no telling who will show up for a game and who won’t. The spreads are an absolute crapshoot. If you must bet, bet on a Big East team winning it all. Not only does the conference make up half the teams, but the NIT concludes back at Madison Square Garden, home of the Big East Tournament. Nevertheless, it is perfectly acceptable to bet on an NCAA Tournament game if your bracket is already through.

n Do hope that the United States resolves its issues with Iraq quickly. When it comes right down to it, some things are just too important to interrupt, and the NCAA Tournament is one of them. CBS has said it will disrupt coverage to report on a war. CBS should know by now that it isn’t a war that unites the people, it is the NCAA Tournament. Why would they pay $6 billion for something that will never be aired?

n Don’t forget to make time to bathe. I can’t stress this enough people. It is going to be a constant struggle to eat, to go to the bathroom and to get fresh air over the next few weeks, just make sure that you clean yourself. Your stomach will survive without eating and your kidney will function when overloaded, but your friends won’t stand for a dirty, funky, disgusting mess if you come over to watch the games. This is especially true if you sweat when you get nervous.

If you follow these guidelines, you – and your friends – will have plenty to be happy about three weeks from now, whether or not you have a winning bracket. Good luck and Happy NCAA Tournament!

-Jeff Phillips can be reached at jpphilli@umich.edu.

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