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Winning advice for filling out those NCAA brackets

The brackets are out. The matchups are set. It’s officially March Madness. Between an ACC championship for my Tar Heels and the realization that next Saturday’s games will be on St. Patrick’s Day, I’m giddy like a school girl (don’t tell R. Kelly).

Like most of the US workforce, I plan to get to work tomorrow, flip on the computer and get down to work. On my brackets. And, I usually have to run my office’s pool, so I’ll have some admin stuff staring me in the face.

Although the good folks at the IRS should know that there is NEVER any money that changes hands here. Whenever I talk about money spent or money earned in these things, I’m merely talking about, er, donations to charity and/or fake Monopoly money.

The other day I was discussing these pools with a friend of mine, and we talked about our successes and failures. I did a count, and in the past eight years, I’ve won my office pool three times. Not too shabby. I’ve also won one bracket at my previous employer’s site (take that!), so that makes a 50% chance of winning since 1999. Not too shabby.

So, you’re wondering (or maybe you’re not) how do I do it? How do you pick a winning bracket?

Turns out, I’ve used a weird combination of skill, luck and stupidity in the past. So, feel free to use any of these:

  1. Do your research… and trust who’s hot. In 2002, I was in my first and only office pool at this one worksite — a mere month or two away from getting laid off. My favorite memory here is that I submitted $20 into a pool (a high-end investment for me), and ended up winning the whole pot. That money funded a really nice golf weekend with the fellas. How did I win this one? I actually did some research and went with teams that were on hot streak. I won a lot of points on early games and had three of the Final Four teams.
  2. Procrastinate… then trust your gut. In 2000, I had precious little time to fill out my bracket. So, I ended up throwing some stuff together at the last minute. I thought Michigan State was the best team in the tourney, so I put them as the eventual champion. I had just seen Florida and Wisconsin play, and they looked good (they were #3 and #5 seeds, maybe?), so they went to the Final Four. Of course, I picked my Heels, albeit a #8 seed, and they went to the Final Four as well. This was a VERY weird year, but I had hurriedly picked the Final Four precisely right — the only bracket with more than two correct. The pool was over before the final game. All because I was too busy to be “logical.”
  3. Find an expert… and rip them off. Last year, Stewart Maisel (I think) had his picks posted on SI.com. I’ve always liked his writing, and I had been pretty lax about following college basketball last year. So, I pretty much copied his picks, with only a couple of exceptions. The result? It’s all about the Benjamin (yes, just one) … and a couple of Jacksons. Do I feel guilty about borrowing another man’s bracket? Not really. Because catch this next one…
  4. Trust your kids…even at 14 months. By far, my favorite win occurred in 2003, right after my son turned one. I was going to submit two brackets into a $5 pool. The first one — we’ll call it the doomed one — used my own noodle. For the second one, I put the kid in a high chair and let him pick. How? I’d put two Cheerios on his high-chair table. If he took both (the norm), that was the favorite. If he only took one, that was the underdog. Swear to God, except for the 1-16 matchups, that’s what I used. And I won about $150 on this large pool. The money should have gone into his college savings, but I needed a new sand wedge.

Anyway, maybe one of these methods will work for you. And if you’re in a pool with me this year, take heart. Now that I’ve bragged about my success, I’ll be in last place, looking up with the one person in every pool who picks games based on mascot matchups (“A tiger vs. a badger? I’ll go with the tiger.”)

PS – One final piece of advice. Never pin your hopes on Lute Olson at Arizona. He’s wrecked more hopes than a prudish whore.

Categories: Sports
  1. July 25, 2007 at 9:04 am

    This is exactly what I expected to find out after reading the title Winning advice for filling out those NCAA brackets. Thanks for informative article

  2. August 11, 2007 at 8:59 am

    I have to say, that I could not agree with you in 100% regarding Winning advice for filling out those NCAA brackets, but it’s just my opinion, which could be wrong 🙂

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