NCAA Pool Strategies

Does anybody have any special strategies for winning the NCAA Basketball office pool (other than the obvious one of picking the winning teams correctly)?

Over the years I’ve tried these:

  1. Don’t bet on the local team to go very far. Others are likely to have sentimental attachments to this team, and this may be an opportunity to pick up points.

  2. Never pick the expected team to win it all. They rarely do, and if they do half the people in the pool will have picked that team as well. However, it is recommended that you pick this most favored team to go fairly far, at least until the final eight if not the final four.

  3. Frugally pick upsets.

  4. At least 2 of the final four teams should be number 1 seeds.

  5. There’s usually a tie-breaker involving the score in the final game. Expect a higher scoring than average game.

  6. When in doubt, go with the ACC.

  7. Predict Cincinnati to be gone relatively soon.

  8. When selecting an upset in the first round, pick a loser that, should you be wrong, will most likely fall in the next game.

  9. When the choice is tough, pick the team that has won more close games during the season. They have proven the ability to handle pressure.

  10. When in doubt, pick the team you like least. This helps you overcome prejudices that can undermine your judgement.
    Of course, I have yet to actually win the office pool, but I am often a close runner-up at the end. Have you folks got any hints that will put me over the top this year?

I won my pool last year, and if you remember correctly, that’s when there were so many upsets. I barely picked any this year. I’m looking at Hofstra, Oklahoma St., and Georgetown this year (8/9 upsets don’t count in my book). Some of my tried and true stand-bys:

Kansas loses early EVERY year.
Actually, the entire Big XII is good for the first round only. Except maybe Iowa St., who loses in the Sweet 16.
Duke likes the Final Four (duh).
Fresno St. is always good for a win.
Kentucky may have won the SEC, but they ain’t no #2 seed.
Regarding Indiana. See Kentucky.

Other notes of interest:
Butler may actually follow through on their near-upset last year.
Luck of the Irish?
3 ACC teams in the Final Four?
Look to see Matt Doherty cry like a little baby this month.
p.s. I’d love some more replies, my bracket is too predictable.

If the team has an unofficial nickname (i.e. The Fab Five, Phi Slamma Jamma, etc.) then they will make it to the final and then lose.

Any low seeded team is good for 1 upset at most, then they are knocked out.

When in doubt on any particular game, go with the team who has the more famous coach.

My strategy is simple, and has rarely failed me. It’s a 3 part system:

  1. First, I study all the teams, all the statistics, and analyze coaches’ strategies.

  2. Next, I select the teams that match up best against other teams in their brackets.

  3. Finally, I get my $5 back… as the last-place finisher in my office pool always does. (True, I never win the $315, but I’m STILL better off than 62 other guys!)

As far as a strategy, I always pick the Final Four, then work backwards and forwards. In going backwards, I decide which brackets will play out by the script (#2 seeds playing #1 seeds in the Elite Eight) and which go all to hell.

Some specifics this year:

North Carolina is a good choke pick this year. I say Penn St. takes them in the second round.

Indiana has a good story this year, what with Bobby Knight gone and all. They have to have a good tournament, so the commentators can say things like, “Boy, what a momentous year for the Indiana fans.” They’ll plow right into the Sweet 16, and then give Stanford a much harder game than anyone expects.

Maryland is hot–they’ll play Stanford for a Final Four berth. It might be an upset.

Kansas is another good choke pick–maybe first round. Ole Miss will also get upset fairly early, despite some great playing in the SEC Tournament.

I beg to differ. Kentucky always deserves a #2 seed. If they had gone 1-35, they would still have deserved a #2 seed. Those years when they were banned from the tournament? They should have gotten a #2 seed then, too. The only time Kentucky doesn’t deserve a #2 seed is when they deserve a #1 seed, which is most of the time.

(Now that no one is looking…yeah, I agree. We got lucky with that one. Isn’t C.M. Newton still on the Selection Committee? They’re playing well, though, and they’ll probably face Duke in the Elite 8. I am reserving judgement on the outcome of that game…)

Dr. J

With the exception of Duke, take large state named schools over smaller private universities named after people or cities. Example: Texas over Temple; Indiana over Creighton; Penn St. over Providence; Oklahoma State over, I don’t know, say St. Josephs or Hofstra. The era of the NCAA being dominated by smaller religious schools like DePaul is long over. I don’t think Stanford will make it the Final 4.

If you look at the Final 4 over the past few years, it’s full of teams like Arizona, Connecticut, Kansas State you get the idea.

Here’s a really good article, by the way:

Scapegoat, whatever you’re smoking, I’d love some. Kansas State?!? Even if you’ve had said Kansas, the Jayhawks are consistent chokers. And look at teams like Gonzaga, Hofstra, Butler, Duke (which you mentioned), Villanova, Princeton (usually good for an upset - but not this year against UNC), Fresno St., Georgetown, Wake Forest, etc.

Regardless of the specifics, I don’t remember when the tourney was dominated by small religious schools. I seem to remember seeing large state schools make large dominations - UCLA, Indiana, North Carolina.