Over the next few weeks, while the rest of the world deals with major issues like war, global warming and the color of a dress, many of us will be preoccupied with basketball, even if we have no interest in basketball.

In fact, people who have absolutely no idea what a bracket is and whether you need a Phillips screwdriver to attach one, will fill out the names of dozens of men’s college basketball teams without having a clue as to what they are doing or why they are doing it. They probably don’t even have a clue about who Phillip is and whether you spell his name with one L or two.

According to the American Gaming Association, which tracks these things because it’s easier than tracking global warming, around 40 million Americans will fill out more than 70 million brackets and wager approximately $9 billion on the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

I could really use that $9 billion, even after taxes, what with gas prices starting to go back up again. But nevertheless, I am willing to share my secrets on how to win your NCAA basketball tournament bracket. These are strategies developed over years of coming in dead last in my office pool, so you at least know they’ve been thoroughly vetted.

Here they are:

— Do your research. Find out who’s playing.

— Check out the nicknames of the schools that are playing. Do not be discouraged if two thirds of the schools are all called “the Wildcats.”

— Whenever there’s a choice between two schools who are both called the Wildcats, choose the Wildcats.

— Never choose a school that has a ferret for a mascot. Ferrets tend to be uncoordinated and have trouble dribbling.

— Always choose the school that’s ranked as the No. 12 team over the No. 5 ranked team because 12 is more than two times as much as 5. Really, this isn’t that hard.

— When confronted with the choice of who will win between a college that rejected you when you applied because of your sub-par SAT scores or a school that admitted you and then made you attend 8 o’clock classes, go with the school that turned you down. It’s likely the college let in somebody more athletic instead.

— Do not be discouraged. When your co-workers point out that after one week, they are winning the pool and you are dead last, point out that after one week the South was winning the Civil War and yet still never made it to the Final Four.

— Always choose the underdog, except when you think they are going to lose.

— Finally, wait to fill out your bracket until the very last moment. Then there’s a chance you might forget it completely.

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