0

JENKINS: Bracketology for the poetically inclined -- or mathematically challenged

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 fatigue

Until 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.And UCLA:

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." Email Rob at rjenkinsgdp@yahoo.com, follow him on Twitter@rjenkinsgdp, and visit www.familymanthebook.com.