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By Keith Lipscomb
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
After making a surprise run to the title game last year, Kentucky has reloaded and is a heavy favorite to win it all this year.
Welcome to the 2015 Men's Tournament Challenge. It's that time of year again, when all the chatter about teams involves phrases like "body of work," good wins, bad losses, and of course, RPIs, résumés and the dreaded bubble. Once the field of 68 has been announced, though, how teams got in matters little, and the excitement of filling out your bracket begins.
All you have to do is select who you think will win each of the 63 tournament games that take place from March 19 on (for those hoping to pick the First Four games, you'll have to give our Streak for the Cash game a try). For each game you get right, you earn points. The point value for a correct pick increases with each round of the tournament, culminating with the championship game on April 6. Once you've made your selections, all you do is sit back, relax and pull for your picks to survive and advance.
If you score the most points, you'll have a chance to win the grand prize of a $20,000 Best Buy gift card and a trip to the 2015 Maui Invitational.
Considering the unpredictable nature of the tournament every year, you certainly don't have to be a college basketball savant to be successful. It's a fun and easy game to play against friends, family and coworkers. You'll see the seeds on the bracket, which will give you a better idea of which teams are expected to advance in each round. But don't be too influenced by those numbers next to each team, because upsets happen every year, and picking the right ones is what separates the haves from the have-nots in Tournament Challenge.
And that's where the real fun lies.
It's your bracket. Pick whichever teams you want. And better yet, we'll give you the opportunity to fill out up to 10 different brackets, so you can get creative with your picks and hedge your bets, if you so choose. Pick the school with the best colors, take your chances with the schools closest to where you live or play the mascot card when determining your selections.
Want to be bold and take a huge underdog to reach the Final Four? If you know someone who pegged UConn to win it all last year, or even Kentucky to reach the finals, it's likely they'll never let you forget it. In the past three years, teams seeded 14th or worse have five wins in the round of 64. In 2014, it was 14th-seeded Mercer shocking Duke. Will recent results like these persuade you to go crazy with upsets, or do you expect higher seeds to hold up their end this year?
It's been an interesting season, as Kentucky's pursuit of a perfect season has been the biggest story throughout. There are many who believe John Calipari's Wildcats will become the first team to finish undefeated since Indiana in 1976, but there is a select group of key challengers they'll have to contend with, as only 10 different teams have occupied the top five spots in the AP poll all season.
Are you willing to bet against the overwhelming favorite from Lexington? Take your best shot to stand out from the crowd in hopes of finding your name at the top of the leaderboard in April.
Need more help in filling out your bracket, here are some other tools at your disposal:
President Obama makes his picks | Bracket
Keating/Brenner: 10 potential upsets
Value picks to consider
Joe Lunardi's guide to all 68 teams
Complete tournament coverage
Have a group you'd like others to join? Do you think one of the underdogs can pull off a major upset? Let yourself be heard or just see what others have to say on the Tournament Challenge message board.