If you're filling out brackets for the men's NCAA basketball tournament or contemplating assorted wagers, keep a few things in mind:
Predicting who'll do what in the tournament is needle-in-the-haystack time. It's a maddening exercise in futility. You deserve kudos for accurately forecasting three-fourths of the sweet 16 or half of the Final Four. Doing research helps some but two problems create huge, performance-altering X factors. Both are critical, emotional issues. First, players get jittery on the Big Stage and second, it's hard to predict how they'll perform in neutral, hostile environments. Too often good teams wilt under the pressure.
Hopefully you found out in time, before completing your brackets, that Syracuse center Fab Melo is ineligible for the tournament. Apparently hours before the official statement was released, at 2:30 p.m. EST, insiders knew he wasn't going to play. Of course that means Syracuse, the No. 1 seed in the East, won't make it to the Final Four. They won't get far without Melo, a scary, seven-foot shot-blocker who's the best defensive player in the Big East. With Melo out, Syracuse might not even get by No. 8 Kansas State, which has a strong front line, or No. 5 Vanderbilt, which beat Kentucky in the SEC tournament. If Syracuse does survive that threat, they'll get murdered by the killer defense of either No. 2 Ohio State or No. 3 Florida State. So, so long, Syracuse.