It is said you should go with your gut when it comes to key decisions. The more you mull, the more you tinker, the more likely you are to talk yourself into other options that might not be as ideal. It goes for all the important choices you make in life: houses, cars, jobs -- and yes, NCAA tournament brackets.
Ever since I was a kid, I would fill out a blank bracket by hand -- first in the pullout section of the newspaper, then later printed off ESPN.com -- as it was being announced and then make my picks during the break between each region. And a couple of decades later, it's my belief that's still the best way to do it.
I've watched all the teams and crunched all the numbers over the course of the past four months, so who needs another three or four days?
So that's what we're doing here. It's a true instant bracket, filled out as the field was being announced. No second-guessing allowed!
First Four (Dayton)
No. 11 Mississippi State 68, No. 11 Pittsburgh 64
No. 11 Arizona State 73, No. 11 Nevada 69
No. 16 Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 75, No. 16 SE Missouri State 68
No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson 76, No. 16 Texas Southern 67
Brackets are open! Head to Tournament Challenge and fill out your bracket now!
Midwest Region (Kansas City)
No. 1 Houston 80, No. 16 Northern Kentucky 54
No. 8 Iowa 85, No. 9 Auburn 82
No. 5 Miami 81, No. 12 Drake 79
No. 13 Kent State 72, No. 4 Indiana 71
No. 6 Iowa State 58, No. 11 Mississippi State 53
No. 3 Xavier 86, No. 14 Kennesaw State 68
No. 10 Penn State 69, No. 7 Texas A&M 67
No. 2 Texas 79, No. 15 Colgate 71
No. 1 Houston 77, No. 8 Iowa 66
No. 5 Miami 75, No. 13 Kent State 70
No. 3 Xavier 72, No. 6 Iowa State 60
No. 2 Texas 76, No. 10 Penn State 69
SWEET 16 PICKS
No. 1 Houston 72, No. 5 Miami 66
No. 2 Texas 74, No. 3 Xavier 71
ELITE 8 PICK
No. 1 Houston 67, No. 2 Texas 65
MIDWEST ANALYSIS: The first thing that jumps out about the Midwest Region is it's Houston at the top, not Kansas. The Jayhawks playing in Kansas City for the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight would have been a huge advantage for Bill Self's club, but they were shipped out West. Assuming Marcus Sasser is healthy for the tournament, Houston will be the heavy favorite to come out of this region. But there are some intriguing plotlines to follow. Kent State is a dangerous 13-seed. The Golden Flashes have high-level guards in Sincere Carry and Malique Jacobs, and they won't back down from Indiana. They need to slow down Trayce Jackson-Davis, though. Iowa State vs. Mississippi State will be a slog, but Texas A&M vs. Penn State is a battle between two of the hottest teams in the country. Jalen Pickett vs. Wade Taylor IV? Sign me up. I think this region will be fairly chalky after the first round. Miami has the guards to win two games, while Xavier vs. Texas should be one of the best Sweet 16 teams in the tournament. This is Houston's region to lose, though. The Cougars are physical, well coached, capable of forcing their style on any opponent -- and they have more talent than recent seasons.