How to Win Your Office March Madness Pool

by Andrew Skaggs

The greatest month of the year has arrived, at least for college basketball fans. That, of course, is the month of March, and along with it comes March Madness. It is an 18-day span of buzzer-beaters, legendary upsets, and the college atmosphere that accompanies each game. The tournament starts with 68 teams and quickly diminishes to 32, 16, 8, 4, and eventually one national champion. The formula is simple ─ win 7 games in a row, and you are on top of the college basketball world. And then, your name will forever be part of the history books.

March Madness is the millions of people across America who fill out a bracket and try to predict all the winners correctly. These occur in office pools and online groups everywhere, usually with a cash prize for those who pick the most games right. The coolest thing about these office pools is that you don’t have to be an expert to win, or even a basketball fan, for that matter. Here are a few tips to help you outsmart your co-workers and achieve the glory of being the March Madness champion amongst your peers:


1.      Don’t be afraid to pick a #12 or #13 seed to upset a #5 or #4 seed.

This is the most common and trendy upset pick every year, but the numbers back it up. In the last decade, there was only one year in which a #12 or #13 seed did not win a first round matchup. At least one of each of theses seeds has won a first round game in 8 of the past 10 years. One way to identify which #12 or #13 seed to pick is to see if you recognize the team, and whether or not you have heard of the #4 or #5 seed.  For example, in 2008 Villanova was a #12 seed and Clemson was a #5 seed. Both schools are pretty well known large schools, however Villanova has a rich history of basketball, while Clemson is typically known for other sports. The reason for theses differences in seedings could have just been the result of playing in different conferences, or Clemson having a better than average year and Villanova having a less than average year. But, when you get to the tournament it is all about experience, so Villanova was able to knock off Clemson mostly because of experienced coaching and a basketball tradition.

2.      The #1 seeds can be vulnerable early, but not too early.

The four #1seeds are almost always the four best teams heading into the tournament, and have the highest expectations. However they can be vulnerable to an upset early. Not in the first round, because a #16 seed has never beaten a #1 seed. Ever. As fun as it would be to pick a #16 to upset and brag to all your friends after it happens, it hasn’t yet, so until it does just stick to the #1 seeds in the first round. History has shown that #1 seeds have a tendency to struggle in the second round when facing either an #8 seed or a #9 seed. A prime example was last year when the heavy tournament favorite Kansas lost to the little school of Northern Iowa who was a #9 seed. It was one of the biggest upsets in tournament history, but there was a little reason to believe that it could have been predicted. In the past decade 6 #1 seeds have lost in the second round and 5 other matchups like this have been decided by less than 5 points. While it’s not great evidence that it happens every year, there is enough evidence that it should garner your attention if you feel like shocking your office pool by correctly picking a #1 seed to lose early. As for later in the tournament, don’t pick all the # 1 seeds to make it to the Final Four. Only once in the history of the tournament has all four #1 seeds made the Final Four and besides, you don’t want to be that guy or girl who picks all the favorites because it shows you are not willing to take risks, which is essential when picking the NCAA tournament.

3.      Look for lesser-known schools that win a lot of games during the season.

Going into the tournament, there will definitely be a lot of teams that you will have never heard of. The only real way to differentiate is the amount of teams that won a bunch of games during the regular season. The tournament format works so that if you win your conference’s tournament, you get an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament.  This way there are teams that get lucky for a couple of games and play their way into the NCAA tournament.  This makes it so you have a good mix of mediocre teams you have never heard of, and teams that won a lot of games and also won their conference tournaments that you have never heard of. Three examples of small schools making deep runs in the tournament are George Mason in 2006, Davidson in 2008, and Butler in 2010. Davidson made it to the Elite Eight, George Mason to the Final Four, and Butler made it all the way to the National Championship. These teams had records of 26-6, 25-7, and 28-4 respectively. While its never easy to correctly pick the Cinderella story of each tournament, if a team won more then 25 games during the regular season, there is a good chance they have what it takes to make a run in the tournament.

4.      Last but not least, have fun, enjoy the tournament, and let it ride.

The most important part of the tournament is to have fun. Even if there is money at stake, it is still all in fun. Don’t be afraid to take risks and pick upsets, it always make the viewing experience better.  Pull for the underdogs, and there is no better feeling than picking an upset right and bragging about it to all your friends. So go out there fun enjoy the greatest sporting event in the world.



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