Tradition also can be used to identify conferences that are particularly strong in the tourney. For instance, a team from the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) has made the Final Four in 22 of the past 28 tournaments, including the 2010 champion Duke Blue Devils.

Those same storied teams also tend to be the ones who get the No. 1 pick. When you're narrowing your Final Four choices, keep that in mind.

While only once has all four No. 1 seeds made it to the Final Four (in 2008 with Kansas, North Carolina, Memphis and UCLA), at least one top seed has made the Final Four in every year except for 1980, 2006 and 2011.

basketball on court

No. 2: Consider the body of work

While it can be tempting to latch on to the "hot team" that came out of nowhere to win its conference tournament, you may want to reconsider before inking them into your bracket's Final Four.

Sure, last year saw three of the Final Four teams win their conference tournaments. But, over the past 10 years, only 20 of the 40 Final Four teams were conference-tournament champions. In fact, over the past decade, more than 60 percent of the league-tournament champions from the power conferences have lost by the NCAA region semifinals.

The numbers are much more solid when you look at regular season conference champions. Since the expansion to 64 teams in 1985, the national champion has won its regular-season conference title 19 times in 27 years.

Basketball pundits have often theorized that a long conference tournament run may actually hurt contenders, wearing them down before the NCAA tournament begins. Looking at those numbers, there may be something to the theory.

Yet another thing to keep in mind when filling out your bracket.

Wisconsin basketball coach Bo Ryan in 2010 NCAA Tournament

No. 1: Stay true to your school

Even if your school isn't seeded high this year, it's usually a good idea to fill out at least one bracket with your team advancing far.

This way you don't have to choose between rooting for your school or your bracket, and you can be excited if your team happens to pull an upset to advance into the late rounds.

The same can go for teams in your conference. If you can't decide between two schools, picking the squad that plays in your conference is a noble choice.

And never discount sentimentality. After all, a team sometimes needs to reach deep when it has to win six straight hotly contested games on the big stage to capture a national title.

So consider the "win one for coach" rallying cry. It worked wonders for North Carolina coach Roy Williams when he won his first title in 2005. Which team is going to get that extra burst this year? Could it be Bo Ryan in Wisconsin? John Thompson III with Georgetown? Mark Few with Gonzaga? Maybe San Diego State's Steve Fisher?

Only time will tell.