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Bracket Racket 3.0 has your NCAA winner

The new-look NCAA tournament begins tonight with two games, but the same rules apply when predicting the champion -- follow my Bracket Racket for the winner of the national championship.

I've picked winners in the past using this formula, so there's a good chance it'll be right again this year. Especially with the upgrades I've installed to cope with a 68-team field handed to us by the NCAA.

Hopefully they don't go to a 96-team field. I'm not sure my computer can handle more changes.

As an added bonus, if you have the right channels on your cable tiers, you can watch all the games. That's pretty cool, unless you own a business and want your employees to be productive.

Now, on to the picks.

First, eliminate all No. 16 seeds. This is a tried-and-true formula. It especially holds true since no No. 16 seed has ever won a game. That eliminates Boston U., Hampton, and the two schools that emerge to face Ohio State and Pitt after the first-round games on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Capital letters spell a loss. It might be easier to refer to University of Nevada Las Vegas as UNLV, but it doesn't make it any easier for these schools to emerge as your national champion. Get out your pen and cross off WVU, UAB, UNC, LIU, UNLV, USC, VCU, UCLA, BYU and UCSB from your sheet.

Bye George, I think they'll lose. Eliminate schools with George in their name. So long, George Mason, Georgia and Georgetown.

They play basketball there? If you rarely hear of a basketball program, then they won't be a serious contender. That means no respect for Morehead State, St. Peter's, Belmont (although they could give Wisconsin trouble) and Wofford.

The Catch-22 bubble. Teams with 22 or fewer wins can't cut the nets. Say bye to Villanova, Marquette, Indiana State, Clemson, Michigan, Tennessee, Penn State, Northern Colorado, Illinois, Florida State, St. John's and Michigan State. We're not eliminating Kansas State just yet, they get a lifeline.

Time to get real. There's no way any team seeded No. 9 or lower wins this tournament. You can cheer for an upset or two -- and that really is what can make the tournament exciting -- but those Cinderella runs never include raising the trophy. We can confidently cross off Princeton, Memphis, Oakland, Missouri, Bucknell, Richmond, Akron, Old Dominion, Utah State and Gonzaga.

What do we have left? The Terrific Twenty-two. It's pretty elite company, just not enough to be called the Elite Eight. From those remaining 22, we can reduce it even further by eliminating UConn (five wins in five days was nice, but they're out of energy for a title run), San Diego State (they're not for real), Temple (Time to get real), Vanderbilt (Time to get real) and Butler (last year was nice, but don't expect it to happen again).

Big East will experience a big letdown. Sorry, 11 bids and no champions this year. Cross off Syracuse, Cincinnati, Louisville, Notre Dame and Pitt.

We're down to the Tremendous Twelve. It's nice, but some teams still don't fit. I'm talking Xavier, Washington, Texas A&M, Wisconsin (33 points against Penn State!) and Purdue.

Simply Seven remain. Here they are: Ohio State, Kentucky, Duke, Arizona, Kansas, Kansas State and Florida.

Here are the four that emerge from their region: Ohio State (East), Duke (West), Kansas (Southwest) and Kansas State (Southeast). It's quite fitting that Pitt is the only No. 1 seed that doesn't make the national semifinals.

We'll see an Ohio State-Kansas championship with the Jayhawks celebrating at the end.

Good luck and happy picking.


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