Pick a football school and you're golden   

Updated: March 17, 2008, 5:50 PM ET

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Florida has won the past two national championships.

Florida is a football school.

Ergo, maybe your bracket should focus on a school's all-around athletic prowess, not just its basketball heritage.

Obviously, this bracket will favor the big-school athletic powers. But, hey, as sweet as the George Mason story was a couple years ago, we all know the big boys usually own the NCAA tournament.


On Friday, we promised to help you win your NCAA pool. Here are our nine foolproof methods.
The 10th -- straight chalk -- will be figured into the Page 2 group bracket as a control variable.
Stay tuned to Page 2 throughout the NCAA tournament to see how our brackets stack up.

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Easiest region (to pick): Southern Cal was an easy pick in the weak Midwest region. With a roster of 100 major leaguers (including Mark McGwire, Tom Seaver, Randy Johnson, Fred Lynn and Barry Zito), Heisman winners and NFL stars (Marcus Allen, Frank Gifford, Junior Seau, Ronnie Lott, Lynn Swann, Anthony Munoz, Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart), Olympic champions (Janet Evans, John Naber, Quincy Watts, Charlie Paddock of "Chariots of Fire" fame) and, of course, one running back/actor/suspected criminal, the Trojans rolled past Clemson (riding the coattails of Refrigerator Perry) to reach the Final Four.

The No. 2 team in the region may have been Wisconsin (NHL stars Mike Richter, Dany Heatley, Chris Chelios, Curtis Joseph, Heisman winners Alan Ameche and Ron Dayne, baseball Hall of Famer Addie Joss), which lost to USC in the second round. But high seeds Kansas (Gale Sayers, John Riggins and Billy Mills not enough), Vanderbilt (umm, Jay Cutler?) and Georgetown (umm, nobody) offered little competition.

Toughest region (to pick): West. Check out the 10-deep rosters:

UCLA: Jackie Robinson, Troy Aikman, Jimmy Connors, Arthur Ashe, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Florence Griffith Joyner, Kenny Easley, Lisa Fernandez, Karch Kiraly, Rafer Johnson.

Arizona: Jennie Finch, Annika Sorenstam, Tedy Bruschi, Lance Briggs, Amanda Beard, Trevor Hoffman, Kenny Lofton, Jim Furyk, Lorena Ochoa, Amy Van Dyken.

Purdue: Bob Griese, Drew Brees, Jim Everett, Len Dawson, Rod Woodson, Ryan Newman, Moose Skowron, Bob Friend, Kyle Orton (bonus points), Ray Ewry ... who you've never heard of, but he's a 10-time Olympic gold medalist in the standing high jump, standing long jump and standing triple jump. OK, so those events were discontinued, but the guy overcame polio as a kid.

Georgia: Herschel Walker, Champ Bailey, Terrell Davis, Fran Tarkenton, Garrison Hearst, Hines Ward, Frank Sinkwich (Heisman winner), Jake Scott, Gwen Torrence, Teresa Edwards.

BYU: Steve Young, Jim McMahon, Jack Morris, Wally Joyner, Rick Aguilera, Johnny Miller, Mike Weir, Ty Detmer, Henry Marsh (four-time Olympic steeplechaser), Frankie Fredericks (silver medalist in 100 and 200 meters at 1992 Olympics).

In the end, the regional final came down to UCLA versus Arizona, and while it was hard to pick against Jennie Finch and company, UCLA advanced to the Final Four.

Easiest pick (single game): Numerous first-round matchups were wipeouts, since schools like Winthrop and American couldn't compete against football powerhouses like Oklahoma and Tennessee. An easy pick involving a top seed losing was Oregon (Dan Fouts, Norm Van Brocklin, Steve Prefontaine, Ahmad Rashad, Mel Renfro, Russ Francis, Alberto Salazar, Joey Harrington) over No. 1 seed Memphis (what, you don't remember '84 All-Star Game starter Charlie Lea?).

Toughest pick (single game): A second-round matchup between Miami and Texas went into triple overtime before the Longhorns pulled it out. While Miami has a strong football and baseball (Pat Burrell, Ryan Braun) legacy plus diver Greg Louganis, we all know Gino Torretta should not have won the Heisman. Texas has a more diverse roster, including Roger Clemens, golfers Ben Crenshaw, Tom Kite and Justin Leonard, and gold-medal swimmer Ian Crocker (Longhorn athletes have won 48 Olympic gold medals).

Biggest upset (in entire bracket): As impressive as the Texas roster is, Stanford ended up coming out of the South region, thanks to a power top four of Tiger Woods, John McEnroe, John Elway and Eric Heiden (plus Tom Watson, Jim Plunkett, Summer Sanders, Julie Foudy and Kerri Walsh).

First-round flop: Notre Dame looked like an easy pick over George Mason in the first round, with the likes of Joe Montana and Carl Yastrzemski. However, the Irish also must own up to Hall of Fame first baseman Cap Anson -- a legend on the field, but also one of the early baseball pioneers most responsible for keeping black players out of the game. Plus, George Mason features "professional foosball player" Greg Nosal. Upset city, baby!

Sleeper school: Michigan State. Only a fifth seed, but a Final Four contender. Its list of athletes include baseball players Steve Garvey, Kirk Gibson and Robin Roberts, NFL stars Bubba Smith, Plaxico Burress, Herb Adderley, Joe DeLamielleure and Morten Andersen (we won't hold Charles Rogers against them) and NHLers Rod Brind'Amour and Ryan Miller.

Final Four shocker: UCLA squeaks past Stanford as Stanford's strong starting five couldn't overcome UCLA's depth. USC beats North Carolina, despite the whole "maybe a kid named O.J. should have picked a different school than USC" issue.

In the final, UCLA beats its crosstown rival. Seriously, O.J. versus Jackie?

Buy stock in: North Carolina. Even though it's not a football powerhouse, we have North Carolina beating Tennessee in the regional final thanks to a roster including Lawrence Taylor, Mia Hamm, Davis Love III, Kristine Lilly, Ethan Albright (Pro Bowler; take that, Madden!), Moonlight Graham and B.J. Surhoff. Plus, with Marion Jones and Julius Peppers, this team will be, umm, well-supplied.

Sell stock in: Schools without football programs -- like Georgetown, Marquette and Duke.

Obvious pick we still like anyway: UCLA over Western Kentucky. He Hate Me was enough to carry the Hilltoppers to the Sweet 16.

First Round
1 North Carolina def. 16 opening-round winner
8 Indiana def. 9 Arkansas
12 George Mason def. 5 Notre Dame
4 Washington State def. 13 Winthrop
6 Oklahoma def. 11 Saint Joseph's
3 Louisville def. 14 Boise State
10 South Alabama def. 7 Butler
2 Tennessee def. 15 American

Second Round
1 North Carolina def. 8 Indiana
4 Washington State def. 12 George Mason
6 Oklahoma def. 3 Louisville
2 Tennessee def. 10 South Alabama

Round of 16
1 North Carolina def. 4 Washington State
2 Tennessee def. 6 Oklahoma

Regional Final
1 North Carolina def. 2 Tennessee

First Round
1 Kansas def. 16 Portland State
8 UNLV def. 9 Kent State
5 Clemson def. 12 Villanova
4 Vanderbilt def. 13 Siena
6 USC def. 11 Kansas State
3 Wisconsin def. 14 Cal State Fullerton
7 Gonzaga def. 10 Davidson
2 Georgetown def. 15 UMBC

Second Round
1 Kansas def. 8 UNLV
5 Clemson def. 4 Vanderbilt
6 USC def. 3 Wisconsin
7 Gonzaga def. 2 Georgetown

Round of 16
5 Clemson def. 1 Kansas
6 USC def. 7 Gonzaga

Regional Final
6 USC def. 5 Clemson

First Round
1 Memphis def. 16 Texas-Arlington
9 Oregon def. 9 Mississippi State
5 Michigan State def. 12 Temple
4 Pittsburgh def. 13 Oral Roberts
11 Kentucky def. 6 Marquette
3 Stanford def. 14 Cornell
7 Miami (Fla.) def. 10 Saint Mary's
2 Texas def. 15 Austin Peay

Second Round
9 Oregon def. 1 Memphis
5 Michigan State def. 4 Pittsburgh
3 Stanford def. 11 Kentucky
2 Texas def. 7 Miami (Fla.)

Round of 16
5 Michigan State def. 9 Oregon
3 Stanford def. 2 Texas

Regional Final
3 Stanford def. 5 Michigan State

First Round
1 UCLA def. 16 Mississippi Valley State
8 BYU def. 9 Texas A&M
12 Western Kentucky def. 5 Drake
4 Connecticut def. 13 San Diego
6 Purdue def. 11 Baylor
14 Georgia def. 3 Xavier
10 Arizona def. 7 West Virginia
2 Duke def. 15 Belmont

Second Round
1 UCLA def. 8 BYU
12 Western Kentucky def. 4 Connecticut
6 Purdue def. 14 Georgia
10 Arizona def. 2 Duke

Round of 16
1 UCLA def. 12 Western Kentucky
10 Arizona def. 6 Purdue

Regional Final
1 UCLA def. 10 Arizona

6 USC def. 1 North Carolina
1 UCLA def. 3 Stanford




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