Welcome once again to mid-March, that time of year when even people who don't care about college basketball suddenly care about college basketball.
Perhaps you're caught up in the excitement yourself, happily anticipating today's selection of the NCAA tournament field, looking forward to filling out your bracket and entering the old office pool.
If so, how do you pick winners? Based on conference loyalty? On whether or not you like their school colors? Purely on a hunch? Or maybe you imagine mascots pitted against each other: Hmmm, if an eagle actually fought a panther, who would win? (That might explain why the Banana Slugs of UC Santa Cruz are not exactly perennial favorites.)
Or maybe you're more of a numbers-cruncher, focusing on win-loss records, strength of schedule, and RPI, or Ratings Percentage Index -- that arcane formula for ranking teams based on opponents' win-loss records, players' astrological signs, and the number of letters in their mothers' maiden names.
Then again, if none of that has worked for you in the past, allow me to suggest an alternative method for filling out your bracket, using a different kind of RPI: The Rhyming Potential Index. This allows you to pick winners and losers with at least as much accuracy as the "experts," based on the rhymability of a team's name.
The process is very simple. You take either the name of the institution or its mascot, and then compose a limerick around it. The best limerick wins.
That's the main reason -- little-known fact -- that Duke actually is a perennial favorite. Not because of multiple championships, or a plethora of All-Americans, or Coach K's 17 kajillion regular-season wins, but because of the awesome rhyming potential of "Duke." To wit:
There once was a young fan from Duke
Who was, by sane standards, a kook.
For mode of attack
On Tarheels and Wolfpack
He preferred a small tactical nuke.
Accordingly, I'm picking Duke to win it all again this year.
I also like Miami:
Those aptly-named Miami Canes
Have made some incredible gains
They swept through the league
Left the rest with fatigueUntil only the Big Dance remains.
And rounding out my Final Four are Michigan State:
Those Spartans of Michigan State
Have lately been playing just great
They destroyed Maize and Blue
Played tough with IU
Let's hope they've not left it too late.
Those resurgent UCLA Bruins
Who last year had fallen to ruins
Came out of a coma
To drill Arizona
And now for the tourney seem shoo-ins.
And what about those darlings of the media, the currently third-ranked Indiana Hoosiers, regular-season champs of arguably the toughest conference in the country? Unfortunately, they don't fare too well in the Rhyming Potential Index:
Just what, pray tell, are "Hoosiers"?
They're anything but loosiers;
I don't pick them
It all to win
But that's my choice; now choose yours.
Rob Jenkins is a local freelance writer and author of Family Man: The Art of Surviving Domestic Tranquility. E-mail Rob at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow him on Twitter@rjenkinsgdp, and visit www.familymanthebook.com.