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Aaron Colvin Continues to Help his stock.

Aaron Colvin will have an opportunity to make himself a ton of money tonight when he takes on Baylor’s air raid attack. Not only is he going against, in my opinion, the 2nd best draft eligible QB, he’s also facing 2 underrated speedsters in Tevin Reese & Antwan Goodley. The stage is all set for Colvin. He has a chance to cement himself as a day 2 pick.

There have been times this year where Colvin has looked like a 1st rounder. Against Texas Tech he put it all together; all his skills were on display. Then there are games like Texas, where his aggressiveness got the best of him. He was flagged for interference as well as biting on a double move. Tonight will be his biggest test yet.

I’ve narrowed it down to 10 specific skills when evaluating a corner. I’ll go over each and tell skill and tell how Colvin fares in each.

Long Speed

This is classified as “can you run stride for stride with the receiver downfield.” I’ve yet to see someone run right by Colvin based on a pure speed route. He isn’t a true burner, like a Rodgers-Cromartie type, or a Bradley Roby, but he won’t show up and run a 4.61 ala Jonathan Banks, either. Colvin has good long speed. Tonight, against these receivers, will likely be his biggest test of the year.

Closing Speed/Acceleration

If you watch the West Virginia game last year, Stedman Bailey exposed Colvin’s closing speed on deeper routes behind him a bit.

He doesn’t have problem transitioning; I just would’ve liked to see him close a bit faster. When Colvin is coming forward he’s very good at closing on the ball. Whether its slant routes over the middle, or closing on a sideline routes, like comebacks and deep outs. I’m not too worried about his long closing speed, because in the NFL corners are rarely on an island with no help.

Ball Skills

Without question this is one of the most important skills for a corner. This is what separates the Deion Sanders from everyone. When the ball was in the air, Deion turned to a receiver, he had as good a chance to come down with the ball as the receiver did, that’s what made him so good.

I’m lumping ball skills with everything you would equate with the skill. Catching the ball, being disruptive at the catch point, playing the ball in the air, everything imaginable. I think this is one of Colvin’s best skills. He is very disruptive at the catch point. He has strong hands, that’s why it’s rare you see a receiver win a 50/50 ball with Colvin. He does a great job of catching contested balls, as well as getting his head around and playing the ball in the air. Most importantly, he finishes the play, by catching it.

Eye Discipline

This is what I would lump with biting on double moves in man coverage. Knowing where to be in zone coverage. Being with the right receiver in zone. This is the weak part of Colvin’s game. His aggressiveness is appreciated, but it gets him in trouble far too often. If he sees a route, he’s going to jump it. There’s been a couple pass interference calls his way, too. Luckily, this is all coachable, but Colvin can’t continue to bite on routes if he want s to have a long career.

Flexibility

Can a corner flip his hips smoothly? Does he lose speed when he has to turn and run? It’s all about how smooth they are in transitioning here. You can notice certain “jerky” movements with some players. Usually the more flexible the player, the more explosive he is.

I don’t have any concerns with Colvin in this regard; he’s a very smooth player. He has no problem turning and running without losing speed.

Athleticism

The term describes itself. You could say it’s a lot of these summed up as one. When you think athleticism you think “wow” “explosive.” Can the player jump out of the gym, or outrun anyone. Colvin isn’t going to be a top 3 performer in the 40 or vertical jump, but he’s an incredibly smooth athlete that is more athletic than given credit for.

Route Recognition/Instincts

Not to be confused with eye discipline, this is solely based on if the player recognizes route combinations. Does he have good instincts. If he sees a 3 step drop, will he recognize a quick hitting pass?

Colvin has the instincts to be a starter at the next level. His interception against West Virginia in 2012 where he broke on a slant is a great example of this. Colvin trusts what he sees, allowing him to play faster than his true speed.

Tackling/Blitz Ability

Oklahoma uses Colvin on blitzes off the edge quite a bit. That’s because it’s something he’s very good at. As I said, his closing speed when coming forward is good. He’s also a very willing tackler. He has a tendency to launch himself, but he does wrap up most of the time and for this very skill, I think he can be a very effective slot corner, which is a compliment. Now a day’s teams are putting their best corner in the slot in the NFL.

Cover Skills

When you are in man coverage, are you able to stay in the receiver’s hip pocket? Can you stay low in your backpedal and get in and out of breaks. In zone, can you read the quarterback, show good awareness as far as identifying routes, and can you bait the QB into throwing the ball knowing you have the range to cover ground.

Colvin is used mostly in a man scheme, but everything I’ve seen from him he’s been solid in zone. His skills translate well into zone. In Cover 3, you basically have man principles. But his coverage is good, he’s normally always where he needs to be, he puts himself in good position to break up the pass.

Change of Direction/Feet

What allows Colvin to be such a good cover corner is his great footwork. He has fast feet, and there aren’t any wasted steps when he’s coming out of his backpedal. Which leads to his change of direction, much like his closing speed, he’s fine going backwards, not great, but acceptable. I think his strength is coming forward to this point.

Here is how the grading scale works

Multiple Pro Bowl Player, Top 10 8.5 – 9.0
Highly Productive Starter, 1st Round 8.0 – 8.4
Very Good Starter, Early 2nd Round 7.8 – 7.9
Reliable Starter, 2nd Round 7.5 – 7.7
Potential Starter in Year 2, 3rd Round 7.0 – 7.4
Backup/Spot Starter, 4th Round 6.5 – 6.9
Productive Backup, 5th Round 6.0 – 6.4
Very Good Backup/STs, 6th Round 5.5 – 5.9
Quality Backup/Good STs, 7th Round 5.0 – 5.4
Backup/STs/Project Player, 7th Round 4.5 – 4.9
Priority Free Agent w/ Limitations 4.0 – 4.4
Non-Draftable

The grading scale and how I come up with the figures can be viewed here.

So if we add it all together, here is how Colvin fares.

Long Speed

2

1.5

Closing Speed/Acceleration

2

1.4

Ball Skills

3

2.8

Eye Discipline

2

1.3

Flexibility

2

1.8

Athletcism

2

1.4

Route Recognition/Instincts

3

2.5

Tackling/Blitz Ability

2

1.8

Cover Skills

4

3.6

Change of direction/Feet

3

2.6

I have Colvin graded out to a 7.45. So he’s an early 3rd round, late 2nd round pick for me. To this point, that sounds about right. Tonight he has the chance to really help himself.

Telvin Smith continues to Improve & Impress

As the draft gets closer and closer, there will be many “experts” that say Telvin Smith is “too light to play the position at the next level.” That couldn’t be further from the truth. When you watch Telvin play, this year especially, he’s stronger than ever at the point of attack. He’s playing like he’s 238, instead of his listed weight of 218. 

Telvin has been playing predominantly at the WILL linebacker position this year. He’s played how we all imagined uber talented but underachiever Christan Jones would play the position. Fast, instinctive, & downhill all in one.

Tackling is obviously an important trait when evaluating linebackers. Is the linebacker “catching” the running back or his he being the aggressor and initiating contact? Is the linebacker launching himself at the running back or is he wrapping up with the proper technique and bringing the ball carrier to the ground? All the little traits matter, like taking on a fullback and leaving the proper arm free

There are certain traits that it takes to be a successful linebacker at the next level. Although it helps, you don’t have to run a 4.5 and rep 225 40 times. Here are the 3 main traits I look for in a successful linebacker.

  • Instincts
  • Athleticism
  • Coverage Skills

Instincts

This is by far and away the most important trait a linebacker can have. You can run a 4.5, but if you can’t diagnose a play and know what hole to hit, your play speed is more like a 4.9. It’s all about can a linebacker read and react. Linebackers have about a second to diagnose what’s happening and make the play. That’s the difference between a tackle for a two yard loss,  and a tackle for a 6 yard gain.

Instincts include reading your keys. Are the offensive lineman firing off the ball? Then you know it’s a run. Did the guard you’re lined up over pull? Then you either shoot the gap that he vacated or strafe down the line of scrimmage to make a play.

Instincts also show up in coverage. Do you know where to drop in zone? Do you find work?

Let’s get into some of Smith’s read and react skills.

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Here, Smith does a great job of shooting the gap and making a TFL. He trusts what he sees, and that’s important for linebackers.

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Another play where Smith diagnoses the play quickly, and makes the tackle in the backfield.

He also understands how zone coverage works.

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This won’t go in the box score, but this is textbook. Smith knows exactly when to release off of the slot WR, and take away the crossing route. These are instincts in the passing game that you just can’t teach(also shows Telvin’s change of direction skills that I’ll highlight later.)

Through 6 games this season, Telvin Smith’s instincts have been very impressive. He’s playing downhill and aggressive despite is 218 pound frame.

Athleticism 

This goes beyond just running fast. Yes, it pays to be faster, but linebackers have to have be great at changing directions, have good balance, and quick lateral movement in general. In my opinion, change of direction>speed when judging linebackers. Linebackers have to work through so much “trash” as they make their way to the ball carrier, they must excel at using their hands to shed blocks, and keeping themselves clean to finish the play.

This is a strength of Telvin’s. At times, he’s too athletic and he over runs the play or gets caught out of position. With the direction the NFL is going today, though, you need as many athletes on the field as you can get. Offenses are spreading it out more than ever, and you need linebackers that can stay on the field for 3 downs. Look at the best middle linebackers in the league. The Patrick Willis’s, Sean Lee’s, Daryl Washington’s, Derrick Johnson’s, all elite athletes with top notch change of direction skills(and all around 230-240 pounds.)

Clemson’s offense is a great test for this, they spread you out, use fake motions to get you going in every direction possible.

Smith was flying around sideline to sideline all game against Clemson. He played himself up a round, at least, putting on quite the display of rushing the passer, showing off his closing speed, and ability to finish plays.

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This was the case all night, whether it was chasing down the running back, Tahj Boyd, or a receiver on a jet sweep, Smith displayed excellent athleticism.

Coverage Skills

This is a primary need in the NFL. The days of a thumper are far behind us. Being a good coverage linebacker is the difference in being a 2nd-3rd rounder and a 5th or later. Look at the 2012 draft class. The early round LBs were Ogletree, Brown, Alonso, & Bostic. All good athletes who can cover. The later rounds? Vince Williams, Nico Johnson, A.J. Klein, guys that were run first LBs.

You add so much value to your stock if you can cover, and that’s exactly why Telvin Smith might find himself selected at the end of round 2, much like Arthur Brown a year ago.

Coverage wise, it’s important to have sudden quickness and speed, to be able to keep up with tight ends and running backs. You need to have a burst, in order to be able to catch up, as well as good route recognition skills. As far as zone, in some of the GIFs above, Smith shows good awareness as far as getting the proper depth in his drops, and shows good fluidness and flexibility in his hips to open up and run with receivers, as well as showing the ability to plant, and come forward.

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In this example, Smith shows off his route recognition and a burst to break on ball. Another fine play.

This next example shows Smith’s ability to turn and run. He’s an explosive player in a short area.

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This is what it takes in the NFL. You have to be able to cover TE’s. This year Smith has shown the ability to turn and run in coverage. To this point, he’s played himself into the end of the 2nd round.

Still Room for Improvement

While I’ve been impressed with Smith’s development and improvemnt from last year to this year. He still can get better. There are times were he an OL locks onto him, and he can’t disengage. There’s also instances where he over runs the play, and allows a big run his way. So gap control and eye discipline have been issues at times this year. Though he’s already gotten better as the year has progressed. When he does hesitate, and doesn’t trust his eyes, that’s when he gets washed out in the run. He needs to trust what he sees and play fast, that way he can play to his stregnths. 

It’ll be interesting to see how he finishes the year up, but to this point, there’s been plenty of good,  and I truly believe he doesn’t get out of the 2nd round if he keeps this up.

 

Odell Beckham Jr.-Primed to be a 1st round pick

Wide Receiver is without question my favorite position to scout leading up to the NFL draft. Having previously played the position helped me gain a better understanding of all the nuances of the position. So I can appreciate the subtle things like receivers not taking a false step off the line of scrimmage, or not taking those extra steps out of a break. 

There are several qualities of a wide receiver that can tell you how well he’ll translate to the next level. A 40 time is certainly not one of them. 

I’m going to go through every trait a wide receiver needs to be successful at the next level, and tell you why Odell Beckham Jr. is better than you think, and just might sneak into the first round. 

Route Running 

The absolute most important trait for a wide receiver. Can you get off press coverage with no wasted movements? Can you make every route look the same? Whether it’s a 10 yard out route, a 3 step slant, or a deep post. The best receivers sell every route as it it’s the same, and don’t take 3-4 steps to get out of their break. That’s the difference between creating separation at the next level, crisp routes with no wasted movement.

Here is an example of Beckham working out of the slot.

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He does a good job of pressing the corner, and getting in and out of his break here. Nothing flashy, but very effective.

This next route Beckham is matched up on the outside, and runs a comeback. When you run a comeback, you want to sell the vertical route, and as soon as you get the corner to “bail” and turn and run, is when you chop your feet and comeback to the ball.

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Again, nothing flashy, but an all-around good play by Beckham. 

Okay, so I can hear you now going “that was against Kent State, let’s see him do it against better competition.”

Fair enough, how about against arguably the most physical and best cornerback in the country, TCU’s Jason Verrett.

I mentioned you have to be able to beat press coverage if you want to make it at the next level. Well, Beckham could’ve had a touchdown if Zach Mettenberger throws him the ball early in the 1st quarter. He hits Verrett with an inside-outside jab step and leaves Verrett grabbing air. But no throw, so there’s no stats. 

Same route as above, a comeback, against Verrett. 

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Same result, and Verrett is actually closer now that the ball has been caught. Beckham does a great job of utilizing his speed to create separation. This can be a problem for faster receivers as they rely too much on their athleticism and not enough on their technique.

Route running is also recognizing coverages. Knowing the difference between man and zone. In zone, you have to find the holes in the defense, know when to sit down. This next one if a good example of Beckham understanding zone coverages.

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Hands

Sounds simple, but catch the ball. Catch the ball in traffic with a defender draped all over you, catch the ball away from your body, and catch the ball at it’s highest point. Show strong hands, don’t let the DB knock the ball away from you. Show good concentration, watch the ball all the way in. Win the catch point and give your QB a big catch radius.

This a strength of Beckham’s. He doesn’t have the smallest hands.

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Here, against Verrett. Beckham does a great job of extending for the ball, catching it away from his body and at the highest point, and controlling it to the ground.

 

 

 

 

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This is picture perfect by Beckham.

Against Mississippi State this year, Beckham put on a clinic on how to catch the ball in traffic and how to high point the ball. It was really fun to watch. I could GIF you to death, but you’d be here all day. 6″ receivers aren’t supposed to make the catches he does. They’re usually nowhere near as good as adjusting to the ball in the air as Beckham is. That’s why I think he is a special player and is being sold short of how good he really is.

Playmaking Ability

Finally, what can you do once the ball is in your hands? This is how you shoot up draft boards. This is what separates the Demaryius Thomas’ from the Stephen Hill’s. The Keenan Allen’s from the Nuk Hopkins. Once you have the ball in your hands, can you make a play?

In Beckham’s case. Absolutely. 

Beckham averages 11.9 yards per punt return and has come “this close” about 5 times this season to returning a kickoff. He’s a threat to score each time when the ball is in his hands. He shows incredible acceleration and an ability to get to top end speed in a matter of steps. He’s also not all straight line speed as he’s shown more than enough wiggle to make defenders miss.

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Why Beckham Will Sneak into the 1st Round

I don’t know where, but I think he will. Beckham has the versatility to fit into any offense. Whether it’s a west coast offense that requires good agility and the WR to create separation on quicker routes, or the deep passing Norv Turner/Bruce Arians type offense that require you to beat your man deep and be better at intermediate routes. Beckham fits the bill. He isn’t limited to where he can line up, and should be able to excel whether in the slot, split end, or flanker. 

Beckham’s value on special teams just adds value to  his stock.

I mentioned how 40 times don’t mean much(at least in my opinion) when scouting a receiver. When Beckham gets a chance to run for scouts, he should wow them. I won’t be surprised if he runs a sub 4.43 40, a good pro agility, and I expect him to jump out the gym based on his tape. Vertical should be high 30′s.  This will all push shoot him up draft boards. There aren’t many draft eligible receivers better than Beckham that offer as much as he does. This is why I think there’s a good chance he’s a first round pick.

 

 

 

Cyrus Kouandjio vs. Virginia Tech

-Shows off quick feet on 1st pass rush

-Hasn’t really been challenged yet, but midway through the 1st he hasn’t been beat

-Gets to his 2nd, 3rd step quickly in his kick slide, active hands

-Gets beat on an inside swim move, CK oversets for an outside rush

-Gets under his man and drives him 5 yards down the field for a pancake block, first wow play

-Not sure how strong his punch is, DE brushes his back a few steps on his bull rush

-DE tries to beat him outside on swim, CK drops his head and has to hold

-Misreads a Texas stunt and allows the QB to get hit

-Athleticism/footwork not an issue. Quick feet. Isn’t overly powerful

-Over extends and gets beat, DE makes TFL

-2nd time he’s gotten beat on an inside swim move

-Gets caught somewhat flat footed and DE beats him inside on a speed move

-Doesn’t know when to pass off his man for combo block. Late getting to his man, DE hits the QB

-Good down block on DT, pancake

-DE has tried to beat him around the corner, CK is too quick, hasn’t given up the edge yet

-DE tries to go back to inside swim, CK moves his feet nicely to pick him up

-Over extends and allows him man to blow the play up in the backfield

-12 min left in the 4th qtr DE tries to bullrush CK, he stands him up, then drives him back into the ground. Nasty OL type play that I was expecting to see more of

CK has a tendency to drop his head/over extend and get beat. Also got beat a few times on his inside as a result of setting outside too hard. He’ll have to stay more balanced. Once he gets momentum going he can be quite strong, expected to see a more powerful type traditional Bama OL, he’s not that player. Was a less than impressive performance to say the least.

Khalil Mack vs Ohio State

-Has gotten walled off on a few weak side runs in a row now, needs to disengage

-Very good initial punch and bullrush, but loses sight of the ball

-Another good pass rush where he bullrushes the OT back, creating pressure, just misses sack

-Good pursuit on a run play chasing Miller down

-Beats OT on swim move to the outside, 1st time he’s used it, good move

-Absolutely dominates the RT for a sack. Fully extends and gets into him quickly. Beat him on a straight bullrush.

-Does the exact same the next play, Miller just gets rid of it. Has a very strong initial punch

-Understands how to pass defenders off in zone coverage

-LT drives him back 3 yards on 4th & Short

-Does a good job of not getting reached on a sweep play, forcing the play back inside

-Beats the LT on a stutter step move to the inside, good quickness. Does everything but make the sack. Has Miller but couldn’t bring him down

-Mack dodges the cut block by the LT and Miller throws it right to him for a pick 6

-Best move of the day. Vs. the RT he wins with a dip move for a sack. Came off the ball slow, then exploded into his dip move. Impressive

-Couldn’t tell if he was running a stunt, but the OL got his hands on him and drove him down the LOS

-Lined up as DT, tried to win with a spin move but the G didn’t fall for it. Didn’t look comfortable/confident inside

-Like most good pass rushers, running at him is the best way to attack him

-Lined up as DT, 3 tech this time, and he gives the LG a stutter step, and converts his speed to power nicely. Strong bull rush. Gets into backfield for a sack. Penalty, no play.

-OSU runs a read option his way, beats the TE on an inside swim move, and makes the TFL. He’s all over the field at this point.

-From a 4-3 Sam spot, OSU runs a swing pass to the back, Mack fights off the block, and makes the tackle for a gain of 1.

-From 3 tech again, uses his stutter step/bull rush move to push the pocket. Pushed the G about 3 yards into the backfield. Miller scrambled for long gain

-OSU finally realizes it’s a good idea to double him, in the 4th qtr.

-Much more effective when he can be aggressive and go get the QB from the 3-4 OLB as opposed to 4-3 SAM when he has to wait and diagnose the play. Used an array of moves to win this game. Potentially a special player.

Jordan Matthews vs Ole Miss

-Catches the ball well with his hands over the middle

-Instantly beat press coverage with no wasted steps

-Sits down well in the middle of the field in zone coverage, understands coverages

-Deceptive speed, a long strider who eats up ground a lot of ground 

-Big WR who can play in the slot

-Separation might be an issue on vertical routes

-Doesn’t seem like he has the ability to make the defender miss

-Made a couple contested catches over the middle, with his hands

-Had to give the S a stutter to create separation on deep reception. He’s smart, understands he can’t win with only speed.

-Ball right off his hands for game ending interception

Do’s and Don’ts of March Madness

It’s here, that great time of year where water cooler talk heats up, where legends are made and dreams are shattered. It can only be defined by one word. Madness. March Madness. It’s that time where you find out how much that guy in cubicle four knows about basketball, how much that cute girl actually pays attention to sports and of course how much you look like a genius amongst your peers. (Believe us when we say this, everyone feels like a genius when they get a Final Four team right) But it’s also the de-facto best sporting event out there. For the next couple of weeks millions will tune in and watch college athletes battle it out in a gauntlet of games on their way to New Orleans to make it to the coveted Final Four. Your job is to guess who makes it there. As many of you are filling out and completing your  brackets we want to give you a couple Do’s and Don’ts to help you as you fill out that bracket so you don’t look like the fool when it’s all said and done.

Do go based of history numbers don’t lie. Jay-Z said it. So it is true.

Do pick one 12 seed-they’ve won a game 24 of 27 years. Fact.

Don’t go Out of control on the upsets. It looks cool, until you’re already eliminated from winning any pool in the round of 32.

Do find out who’s hot. Check a teams last few games to see if they are on a nice little run. It could be the difference.

Don’t trust those 2 seeds! Once in the last 15 years has all 2 seeds made the sweet 16(sorry Coach K)

Do have a double digit seed in the sweet 16-in those 15 years all but 3 have produced a double digit seed(yup, WVU looks the part)

Don’t have all 4 #1 seeds in the final four. What’s cool about having a pocket of all one dollar bills? Nothing. Neither is picking all the one seeds. Is it easy? yeah. Does it happen?  It’s happened once in the last few years. Yeah once, 2008. So that ‘Cuse winning it all thing you got going on? Stop that. (Plus they can’t rebound, but we won’t dwell that deep into it.)

Do find her. Cinderella is going shoe shopping right now, it’s your job to find out where is it in the SOUTH, WEST, EAST, or the MIDWEST. She is somewhere.

Do have a #1 seed winning it all. Sounds contradicting I know, the big boys do end up taking home the belt the majority of the time.

Do ask your girlfriend/sidechick who would win if your stuck-Trust me, it works. Do they know who Kidd-Gilchrist is? No, they probably think he’s a guy from their favorite show “The Voice” but their never wrong in these situations. The less they know, the better they are.

Don’t outthink yourself. You’re not a know-it-all just because you’ve watched ESPN 16 hours straight and watched Obama fill out his bracket. Just pick based on the single digit games you’ve watched all year, it might help.

Don’t be biased-The hardest thing about feeling these things out. We get it, you went to school there, that doesn’t mean Iowa State is gonna breeze to the Final Four. And yeah he’s a great coach, we all like him, but face it, Duke isn’t going to make the final four (Sorry Coach K)

There are going to be upsets. It’s just the nature of the tourney.

If you are serious: Check this stat FREE THROW PERCENTAGE.  Free throws win games. Ask the 2008 Memphis team. (Well technically their wins were vacated that year because of Derrick Rose and his SAT sco… I’m getting off topic) 
Don’t act like you are a super genius if you get some picks. Picking that nine seed to beat an eight doesn’t make you a Bracket Master and honestly that happens quite a bit. So if you feel you got the most picks right, chances are someone got more than you.
 Do pay attention to this. A 10 will beat a 7. Believe me. It will. Numbers do not lie.
Don’t pay attention to records. The best record doesn’t win the title. UConn was a subpar team in the Big East last year.
 Do go with your gut. If you feel that the Baylor Bears are going to sweep through the tourney in their highlighter jerseys, go with it. It’s your choice.

Don’t pick based on colors. But if you do note this: since 2004 the winner has had a shade of blue as their primary color.
Don’t pay too much attention to conferences.  

We would tell you more, but we got our own pools to win. But,

HAVE FUN. It’s the best time of year enjoy it.

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