Madness of March: How to Fill Out a Smart Bracket and Win the Office Pool Cash

Only the NCAA tournament could pull off a buzzer-beater on the iPad 3 announcement. Sure it would be nice to track your bracket picks on a slick new HD tablet and perhaps Apple should rethink the timing of its next launch plan and join the dance. Regardless, all the new technology in the world isn’t going to assist you (much) with your bracket picks. 

Here’s 4 “bracketology” tips to help you win the cash and get that shiny new iPad 3 for a steal! (Note: Anyone in my office pool should ignore these next comments:)

Super-Star Power:
Teams that have coaches and players who are considered the stars of the NCAA almost always do well. Fix on coaches who’ve been to the dance before–they know how to motivate their teams in March what moves to make in a tight game. Pick teams with McDonalds’ All-Americans as they traditionally go deep in the bracket… but also look for mid-major teams that have an unstoppable player who has emerged on the college scene. These athletes will take charge and carry a middle-of-the-road team to the sweet sixteen.

Upsets & Cinderellas:
If you’re looking for an upset but your hunch isn’t great, go with the higher seed. There’s a ton of experts who will promote their hunch, but the selection committee doesn’t “hunch” seeds. However, there will be upsets and they can make or break a close bracket race. Stay away from #1-4 seeds losing in the first round; it’s rare and this isn’t looking like the year for that. Look for a mid-major that dominated their league matched up with a major college that finished around .500 in their conference. These are usually #5/6 vs. #12/11 seeds and this year is ripe for those shockers.

You’re not a dog…but you’re team might be:
Unless your favorite teams are in the top 10 going in, throw any sentiment out the window… or plan on getting lucky (loyalty isn’t part of the rewards here). There are some anomalies, especially when stellar athletes and experience come in to play. If you’re tempted to pick your boys, do a little research on their road record and their opponents, and understand specific match-ups. If it’s a close call, what the heck, but don’t even think they’re a slam dunk for the later rounds (trust me, I’ve been rejected).

Nail the Final Four:
This should be your main goal. Almost all bracketeers who successfully pick the final four will have a chance to win. Don’t pick all four #1 seeds, as they have prevailed for a final four match up only once (2008 – good thing Kansas was loaded). It’s smart to take the high seeds far into the tourney, but bracketing the Elite 8 with yearly domination will require a studious juxtaposition using these key factors:
• First…throw out the overall records (too many patsy early games)
• Focus on how teams finished the year and strength of schedule
• Compare road records, key victories/upsets and losses
• Check for major injuries/suspensions
• Weigh-in past experience (players and coaches)

Finally, it all comes back to trusting your gut and trusting whether teams have it in them to pull off the big wins under pressure. Then go for it! There’s way too much luck invlolved to sweat it. 

Btw… if you don’t win the cash, consider an iPad 2 at discount, maybe for next to nothing and don’t forget to score extra savings in FatWallet’s March Mania Deals and Cash Back Sale through April 2. Good Luck!

You can find and tweeting about suds and other substance @brentsheltonnow.

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