The impression is that parity reigns … at least 300 teams started the season with a chance to win the NCAA Tournament and 68 remained serious contenders as the tourney began Tuesday night.
Still, resist the temptation to put on a blindfold and randomly pencil winners onto a bracket sheet until a champion emerges.
A better strategy is to concoct a formula, maybe a modification of the one that didn't work at the racetrack. I'm here to help with some guidelines:
• Player names are a huge indicator, so look long at Pacific (Sama Taku), Florida Gulf Coast (Chase Fielder), Oklahoma (Romero Osby), Oregon (Arsalan Kazemi), Illinois (Nnanna Egwu), Wisconsin (Mike Bruesewitz) and Wichita State (Cleanthony Early).
• Nix any team that has a power forward with the first name Danica.
• Advance St. Louis one round for every million belly laughs the late Rick Majerus gave you over the years.
• A team with a former Illinois head coach -- Oklahoma's Lon Kruger, Kansas' Bill Self or Kansas State's Bruce Weber -- is enticing if only to torment sensitive Fighting Illini fans.
• Be partial to any school with a player 7-feet-5 or taller.
• Teams with Indian nicknames are automatically disqualified, and so are barber colleges.
• Try to figure out a way to pick Northwestern and deduct it on your tax return as a charitable donation.
• Derive clues by decoding messages shaved into the heads of star players.
• Dismiss schools that have at least one starter with a police record, though that might not leave enough teams to fill a Final Four.
• The more feathers on a mascot, the less chance of surviving the first round.
• Never pick Duke to win anything even if the Blue Devils have five All-Americans in the starting lineup.
• College basketball today is so inferior to past eras that it's smart to lean toward teams you haven't seen play because seeing is disbelieving.
• Teams that celebrate victories with the Harlem Shake automatically forfeit.
• Never pick a school that has a harp in its pep band and always pick a school that has a kazoo section in its pep band.
• Cheerleaders of either gender who have mustaches are cautionary.
• Snicker at any team with even one player who has a make-believe girlfriend unless, you know, she's really hot.
• Pick any team coached by Shaka Smart just because it's so much fun to say Shaka Smart.
• Favor any team with a player whose points-per-game average is zero dark thirty.
• Root against coaches like California's Mike Montgomery, who shoved one of his players, Ohio State's Thad Matta, who went verbally ballistic on one of his players, and Indiana's Tom Crean, who went nuts on an opposing assistant coach.
• Avoid a 20-loss team unless it's also a 100-victory team.
• If you pick a school from the so-called Catholic 7 to make the Final Four, balance it out with a school from the Baptist 4 to make the Final Seven.
• Spoiler alert! Spoiler alert!
Here is a foolproof Final Four resulting from a foolproof formula:
Northwestern State (close enough to Northwestern); Minnesota (player named Maverick Ahanmisi); Miami (just because it's an ACC team that isn't Duke); and New Mexico State (7-5 center Sim Bhullar).
Then get serious and pick Kansas (Bill Self) to win the NCAA title and annoy all those sensitive Illinois fans.