NCAA tourney Pick’Em 101: Tips on how to win your office pool
For years your ears have been bombarded by a foreign language spewed by sports junkies congregating in the office. When the calendar flips to March, talk of "brackets," "seeds" and "Cinderellas" around copy machines and water coolers have been inescapable. Badgered repeatedly by the hoop heads to participate in their cutthroat tournament game, you – outwardly, a diligent worker dedicated to fattening the company's bottom line but internally yearning for much, much more – have historically stiff-armed their advancements. After all, conformity is a threat to your work ethic and individuality.
However, this time each year you notice productivity around the office slips dramatically. Important meetings are skipped. Lunch rules are stretched. And unresolved TPS reports collect dust.
Enough is enough. You too want to stick it to the man. More importantly, you want to silence the annoying, self-proclaimed experts at their own little game … If you're an inexperienced bracketeer with hopes of dominating the office pool, this is a primer designed to bring you up to speed on the basic terminology and tips that encompass the NCAA tournament.
Lace up your Chucks.
[Related: See bracket, play Tourney Pick'em]
TIP-INS – A FLIGHT FULL OF COMMON STRATEGIES
Below are five tips chock-full of pertinent info that could send you to a championship:
1. Top dogs don't necessarily pack the most vicious bite
Since the tournament expanded to its current capacity in 1985, only 41.7-percent of No. 1 seeds have advanced to the Final Four. During that span, only once have all four top seeds made it to the Mecca of college hoops (2008). Yes, elite squads have more favorable odds of making a deep run, but sage players aim for variety when penciling in a team on the bracket line. Typically, the Final Four will feature two No. 1's and two lower seeded teams from the 2-4 range. Last season's Final Four followed that pattern as one No. 1 (Kentucky), two No. 2s (Ohio St. and Kansas) and a No. 4 (Louisville) reached the national semifinals. This year's No. 1 seeds are Louisville, Kansas, Indiana and Gonzaga.
2. Don't fall in love with too many Cinderellas
Selecting upsets is a bragging exercise. Everyone wants to boast to their buddies that they had the stones to pick a team from the Southland Conference. But becoming enamored with an abundance of underdogs can bloody your bracket in a hurry. Shocker specials do happen, but not nearly as often as many would lead you to believe. According to BracketScience.com, roughly 15 percent of top seeds per season are bounced early on average. However, that number has trended upward of late. Last year, was overloaded with a high number of unexpected topples. An astounding 17.1 percent of higher seeds were bitten by the upset bug – the dispatching of No. 2 seeds Missouri and Duke by No. 15s Norfolk St. and Lehigh the most noteworthy. Obviously, don't pick by the book; just be mindful that small schools do occasionally upend regional favorites from power conferences, but rarely over multiple rounds. Here's a breakdown of the Round 1 winning percentage for teams seeded No. 11 or lower since 1985 (Note: 11s and 12s are the most likely to wear a glass slipper):
No. 11s (38-74, 33.9%); No. 12s (38-74, 33.9%); No. 13s (24-88, 21.4%); No. 14s (16-96, 14.3%); No. 15s (6-106, 5.4%); No. 16s (0-112, 0%)
3. Heads or tails? Flip-a-coin matchups
The NCAA selection committee most seasons does a masterful job matching close-seeded teams of similar skill levels. As a result, 8-9 and often 7-10 games are highly competitive crapshoots. In the modern tourney era, No. 9s have had a slight advantage, winning 51.8 percent of its matchups. Conversely, No. 10s have won only 40.2 percent of the time. Such notable games this year are North Carolina (8) vs. Villanova (9) and San Diego State (7) vs. Oklahoma (10).
4. Hit the books
Upon graduation, you may have vowed never to enter another classroom, physically or virtually, again. But research favors the champion. In this age of endless convenience, accessing vital information is just one click away. Immersing yourself in columns/videos on Yahoo! Sports is the first step for success. For the advanced, numbers-rich sites like BracketScience.com and KenPom.com are also invaluable resources. Pools can be won accidentally, but increasing your knowledge on the subject matter only enhances your chances.
5. Defense wins championships … most of the time
Of all the attributes a team possesses, defense is the greatest factor in predicting a team's potential tournament success. Schools that force turnovers, guard the glass and generally frustrate opponents are almost always in a game, regardless of how good/bad it may be performing offensively. According to the ridiculously addictive KenPom.com, 2011's VCU team is the only school to reach the Final Four with a ranking of 40-plus in defensive efficiency. When in doubt, use the data located here to determine who should advance on your sheet.
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