By Josh Cook
Today is one day when most people, even those who hate their jobs, look forward to going to work.
Because they get to fill out an NCAA Tournament bracket and try to win their office pool. This is the day that every person in their office, from the die-hard hoops fan to the person who picks the winning team based on jersey color, feels they have a chance to win their work's Big Dance bracket.
[Join Louisville.com's free NCAA Tournament Pool for bragging rights--and the chance to sound off about anything related to Louisville on a post of your own on this site.]
Want to take home some cash in your office pool? It's all about accumulating points round-by-round and picking the national champ.
So with that in mind here are 10 tips to win your office pool this year.
1. First things first, go ahead and pen all of the No. 1 seeds into the Round of 16. The top seeds in each region have won at least their first two games in each of the last five tournaments. So go ahead and put Kansas, Kentucky, Duke and Syracuse into the Round of 16. And don't be afraid to pencil them in the Elite Eight too. Every No. 1 seed in the last three tourneys has advanced as far as the regional final. And also don't forget that the last three national championships, and eight of the last 11, were No. 1 seeds.
2. Only put two No. 2 seeds in the Elite Eight. The second seeds in each region haven't been as lucky, or effective, as the 1 seeds in recent years. Only two advanced to the Elite Eight last year and only one made it that far in 2008. The last No. 2 seed to win it all was Connecticut in 2004. The two No. 2's with the best route to the regional finals this year are West Virginia and Villanova.
3. Ride the No. 3 seeds to the Round of 16. Only one 3 seed in the last three years (Washington State in 2007) has failed two to win its first two games in the Big Dance. So go ahead and pick Georgetown, Pittsburgh, New Mexico and Baylor to win their first two games. Making it to the Elite Eight is harder for the 3, though. Two made it that far in 2009 and 2008, but only one (eventual champ Florida) in 2007. The two No. 3's with the best road to the region finals this year are Georgetown and Pittsburgh.
4. Only put two No. 4 seeds in the Round of 16. Only two 4 seeds won their first two games in last year's tournament, as well as in 2006 and 2004, while only one 4 advanced that far in 2008, 2007 and 2005. And don't put a 4 in the Elite Eight because not a single one has made it that far since LSU in 2006. For some reason the 4 seed has been snakebit (which could bode well for 13th-seeded Murray State in its game against Vanderbilt). The two 4 seeds with the best chances of making it to 16 are Maryland and Wisconsin, but don't expect the Terps or Badgers to go beyond that.
5. Pick at least one 5 seed to get beat in the first round. The 12-5 upset has become one of the hallmarks of the Big Dance over the years, only once (2007) in the last nine tourneys has a 12 seed NOT upset a 5 seed. In fact two 12 seeds won first-round games last year, as well as in 2008 and 2006. A 12-seed from a major conference is even better. This year's best bet to get upset - Butler.
Also note that only one 5 advanced to the Round of 16 last year and in 2008 so don't expect Temple, Michigan State and Texas A&M to go far even if they win their first game. And DO NOT put a 5 in the Elite Eight because that's only happened once (Michigan State in '05) in the last seven tourneys.
6. Pick at least one 6 seed to lose its first game. The 11-6 upset is the new 12-5 upset. An 11 has beaten a 6 in the first round in each of the five tournaments. This year's best bet to get upset - Notre Dame. Also note that a 6 hasn't advanced to the Round of 16 since 2007 and no 6 has made it to the Elite Eight since 2005.
7. Pick one 7 seed to make it to the Round of 16. Last year it didn't happen - only one 7 even won a first-round game - but in the four previous tournaments it happened five times. This year's seventh seed with the best chance to advance is BYU.
8. Go with the mid-majors at No. 8. The 8-9 games are the hardest to pick - in fact they have split their last 24 games - but teams from mid-major conferences who are No. 8 seeds have gone 5-1 in the first round since 2003. With that in mind then UNLV and Gonzaga look like good picks to win this year. On the flip side teams from the Pac-10 are 1-4 as 8 seeds since '03. That's good news for 9-seed Louisville, which plays No. 8 Cal in the first round. So Cardinal fans you can actually pick your team to win its first game and not feel guilty about it. Beyond that is a giant leap, though.
9. Whatever you do, DO NOT have a 9 seed win two games. Only one 9-seed (UAB in '04) in the last 15 tourneys has advanced to the Round of 16.
10. Finally the last, and biggest tip to winning your office pool is simple...don't pick Kentucky. Nothing personal Wildcat fans, but let's face it in this town 1 out of every 2 brackets filled out in your office pool is probably going to have UK as the national champion. So unless you think you can pick more correct games than Joe Lunardi's fourth-cousin twice-removed who works in your office, then the best chance you have at winning your pool is picking against Kentucky.
Those are my tips, now here are my picks.
Teams who will advance to the Round of 16: Kansas, Maryland, Georgetown, Georgia Tech, Syracuse, UTEP, Pittsburgh, BYU, Kentucky, Wisconsin, New Mexico, West Virginia, Duke, Texas A&M, Baylor, Villanova.
Elite Eight: Kansas, Georgetown, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Kentucky, West Virginia, Duke, Villanova.
Final Four: Kansas, Syracuse, Kentucky, Villanova.
National championship: Kansas over Kentucky.
Best of luck to all. And if my advice pays off and you collect some money don't forget about me.
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