6 Hacks For Winning Your March Madness Office Pool

by Jessica Learish

If your office or your friend group is doing a March Madness pool, you only have about a day to fill out your bracket, as most pick 'em sites lock brackets before the real action starts with the round of 64, beginning on Thursday. But filling out a bracket can be challenging, especially if you haven't followed NCAA basketball closely during the regular season. With these hacks for filling out your NCAA Tournament bracket, you'll be in pretty good shape when it comes to break room bragging rights, even with 68 teams competing for one title.

There is no foolproof secret to filling out these brackets. As far as anyone knows, no one has ever filled out a 100 percent perfect bracket. In 2014, Warren Buffett's Quicken Loans opened a pool to the public that promised one billion dollars to anyone who filled out a flawless bracket, which, if you recall, has never ever happened, so the money was safe. The last remaining perfect bracket on ESPN in 2015 didn't even make it through the second round, most obviously because the guy who filled it out violated my cardinal rule number four. Spoiler alert, because it can't be said enough times — never bet against Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo in March. April, on the other hand, is fair game.

So, if you get a few games wrong, don't worry — you certainly won't be alone. Here are some tips and tricks to keep your bracket game strong through the month of March anyway, because it never hurts to try.

1. Beware the overrated seed

Texas A&M lost to Kentucky in the SEC tournament championship game on Selection Sunday, and somehow still ended up with a higher seed than the very salty Wildcats. Another thing that can cause a team to underperform for their seeding is injury, so keep an eye on that Syracuse/Dayton matchup, where Dayton Freshman Forward Kendall Pollard has struggled with knee issues for a large part of the season. Syracuse will also be playing with an enormous chip on its shoulder in that game, since Dayton upset them in the tourney in 2014 and many experts have gone on the record suggesting that the Orange should have been left out of this year’s Big Dance altogether. I picked Cuse to live to fight in the second round when they’ll obviously get sent home by Coach Tom Izzo’s annually March-crazed Michigan State Spartans.

2. Pick more upsets in 2016

Because this season has been absolutely bonkers-insane when it comes to the merry-go-round of teams at the top, I would err on the side of more upsets in your bracket. The University of Northern Iowa is 2-0 against the top 25 this season — they beat top seeded (and then No. 1 ranked) UNC early in the season and are definitely on a hot streak, having won 11 of their last 12 regular season games including a barn burner against Wichita State.

3. The 5 vs. 12 curse

When the four 5 seeds play the four 12 seeds, those games notoriously produce thrilling upsets, and this year, I’m picking the Purdue Boilermakers to get knocked out in the first round by the 12th seeded Arkansas-Little Rock Trojans. Sure, Purdue had one of the most impressive defenses in the game for most of this season, but as the months wore on, the better teams on their schedule found holes in their very tall, relatively slow-moving, classically Big 10 lineup. Little Rock’s roster is filled with seasoned veterans (which is super important in close, early round matchups), and they only have two freshmen on the team in total. The Trojans also shoot 3s, which means, if they can get their shots to fall, they can easily shoot over the larger Boilermakers. Purdue has fallen apart in the late minutes of several games this season, making them subject to an early loss in a rowdy tournament setting.

Yale might actually be able to beat the Baylor Bears too, in their first NCAA appearance since 1962.

4. There are some people you just don't bet against

Don’t bet against Izzo in March.

Don’t bet against Izzo in March.

Don’t bet against Izzo in March.

Unless of course they’re playing Duke, then sorry, Mr. Izzo, Sir, but Coach K has your number. Over the last 22 seasons, Duke is 5-1 against the Michigan State Spartans and hasn’t lost a tourney matchup to Izzo’s team in over a decade. That magical matchup only happens if Duke finds some sort of miracle within their shorthanded squad and can get all the way through the West region to Oklahoma and star senior guard Buddy Heild and top of the top rated Kansas, where Duke and MSU would have a rematch of last year’s Final Four game — this year, for all the marbles, but I’m not sure if the basketball gods have that planned for this season, but who knows.

5. If all else fails, ask the experts

Joe Lunardi and Nate Silver are both pretty good at this whole March Madness thing. If you’re stuck on a game that seems pretty evenly matched, ask an expert and see what advice they have to give. Just don’t lean too heavily on their predictions as this March seems like one where you can throw the statistics out the window. But, for what it’s worth, both Lunardi and Silver have the Kansas Jayhawks as a strong candidate to win it all.

6. Or just go with your gut

Going with your gut is completely acceptable. Pick teams because you like their mascots, or because you like their uniforms, or because the food in their city is good. March Madness is called “March Madness” because it’s a crazy, chaotic, nutty few weeks of leaving every last drop of effort out on the court for the glory and the story, so you could feasibly win your pool more or less blindfolded, especially this season.

Images: Whistle Sports/YouTube; SEC on ESPN/MakeAGif; Giphy (3)