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10 Things You Need To Know Before You Fill Out Your NCAA Tournament Bracket

Carolina fans

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Do you have your NCAA bracket filled out yet? You'd better hurry. The 2012 NCAA basketball tournament gets underway Tuesday with two of the 'First Four' games. Mississippi Valley State plays Western Kentucky in a 16-seed game in the South Region, while BYU takes on Iona in a 14-seed game in the West Region. Here are 10 things you should know before turning in your NCAA bracket.

 
Anthony Davis

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Don't Pick Four No. 1 Seeds

 

 
No. 1 seeds Kentucky (South), Syracuse (East), North Carolina (Midwest) and Michigan State (West) are favored to reach New Orleans, the site of this year's Final Four. But only once, in 2008, have all four No. 1 seeds made it through to the national semifinals. In 1980, 2006 and 2011, no top seed won a regional tournament.

 
Fran Dunphy

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Coaches Matter

 

 
Well-known coaches who lead traditional powers are easy to select as favorites, but experienced coaches like Fran Dunphy at Temple (Midwest), Steve Alford at New Mexico (West), Steve Fisher at San Diego State (Midwest) and Rick Majerus at Saint Louis (West) always have their team prepared. If the uniformed talent seems to be even between two teams, check the men on the bench.

 
VCU mascot

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Defense Stops Offense

 

 
Defense never goes into a slump. A team like Colonial Athletic Association champion VCU (South), which forces 17.9 turnovers and 10.6 steals per game, can give any opponent fits in any round. Coach Shaka Smart's Rams didn't make last year's Final Four by accident. Likewise, Florida State (East), Michigan (Midwest), Marquette (West) and Wisconsin (East) can stop hot shooting teams cold.

 
John Calipari

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Recent Losses Help

 

 
Top 10 teams like Kentucky (South), Syracuse (East), North Carolina (Midwest), Duke (South) and Kansas (Midwest) all lost to lower or unranked opponents in the past week. Those conference tournament defeats may serve as the wake-up call that many teams don't get until they have been upset in the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament. Fans of hot teams like Murray State (West), Colorado (South), Montana (East) and Louisville (West) should be wary, though.

 
Kim English

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Some Teams Are Peaking

 

 
Like 2011 national champion Connecticut, some talented teams just peak at the right time and ride that wave into the Final Four. Missouri (West), Michigan State (West) and Florida State (East) are threats to be this year's Connecticut. All three teams are coming off nearly flawless performances in their respective conference tournaments.

 
Isaiah Canaan

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Guards Can Carry A Team

 

 
Guards always have the basketball in their hands and can often prevent the other team's offense from finding a rhythm. Isaiah Canaan and Donte Poole of Murray State (West) may be among the nation's best backcourt duos. Ray McCallum Jr. of Detroit (Midwest) is a talented enough player to start on any NCAA team. John Jenkins of Vanderbilt (East) averages 20 points per game and shoots 45 percent from beyond the 3-point line.

 
Peyton Siva

Michael Heiman, Getty Images

Good 3-Point Shooting Counts

 

 
Peyton Siva of Louisville (West), Brady Heslip of Baylor (South), Isaiah Canaan of Murray State (West) and Scott Christopherson of Iowa State (South) can all shoot the 3-point shot well enough to keep their team in any game. If these teams fall behind by more than 10 points, they will not panic; they'll just go deep.

 
Texas Longhorns

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Know A Team's Conference

 

 
Teams from tough conferences may feel like they have been playing in the tournament all year. When Texas (East), Alabama (Midwest), Virginia (West) and Connecticut (South) face an opponent with 20-plus wins and great bench strength, it probably feels like a typical conference game. No one can question the desire of these schools to play the best teams; they already have.

 
Austin Rivers

Streeter Lecka, Getty Images

Great Players Win Big Games

 

 
Anthony Davis of Kentucky (South), Draymond Green of Michigan State (West), Thomas Robinson of Kansas (Midwest), Jared Sullinger of Ohio State (East) and Austin Rivers of Duke (South) are all capable of single-handedly carrying their teams to the Final Four. Each will most certainly have a future in the NBA.

 
Capser Ware

Eric Francis, Getty Images

These Seniors Are On A Mission

 

 
For some of the nation's most underrated seniors, this NCAA tournament is their final chance to define their careers. T.J. Robinson, Larry Anderson, Eugene Phelps and Casper Ware of Long Beach State (West) are experienced and talented players on a dark-horse team. Scott Machado of Iona (West) may be the nation's best pure point guard. Kevin Jones of West Virginia (East) can score with, and on, any team in the country.

 

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