Basically, you pony up a bit of cash and fill out your own copy of the bracket, picking winners all the way through the tournament, up to and including the 2012 champion. If you make the best picks, you win the pot.
While I'm no expert when it comes to the college hardwood, I do have a touch of the degenerate gambler about me. So, I'm offering a few observations with regards to the sweet science of bracketology.
The selection committee is smarter than you are
Here's the thing: I don't care how many hours a day you spend searching sports websites and the blogosphere and trying to glean informative tidbits that justify picking a 14-seed to upset a 3-seed in the first round. These teams aren't just seeded at random; the committee consists of experts who have made college basketball their lives.
Seeding almost always wins out, especially in the first two rounds, so trust the selection committee to do their jobs. If you're dying to make upset picks, check out the 8-9 and 7-10 match-ups. Those games tend to feature teams that are pretty evenly matched.
Keep an eye on hot streaks
Check out things like conference tournament results; if a highly-touted team made an early exit, they might be due to catch fire. If an overlooked team made a deep run, they might be on a 'no respect' kick that could carry them deep into the NCAAs.
On the flip side, that early-exit team might have gone over a week without playing a game. That could lead to some rust. Also, if a team went all-out in the conference tournament, they might not have anything left for the Big Dance.
Let's be honest. The true-blue fans and die-hard stat heads rarely win these things. At the end, it's always the person who filled out his or her bracket in a seemingly illogical manner. Maybe his favorite color is blue, so he picked teams with blue uniforms to win. Maybe she went through and did the whole 'Obviously, a tiger would beat a husky' comparative mascot thing. Maybe he just filled it out randomly.
Regardless, the point of this tip is that tips are pointless. You can invest a ton of time and energy, working out match-ups and listening to the experts, only to lose in the end to the dude in the next cubicle who picked his winners by who came first alphabetically.
So it's time to enjoy the best postseason tournament in all of American sports. Have fun. Fill out your bracket however you like. Maybe you'll even win. Myself, I'm resigned to another year of tearing up my bracket midway through the second round.