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Adam Gold

How to win your office pool the fun way

Posted March 20, 2013

It's about that time. Time for you to put your beads on the line, fill out a bracket and hope for the best. The NCAA men's basketball tournament is the most captivating sporting event in the United States. Doesn't matter who you are -- longtime hoops guru or needle pointing grandmother -- everyone has a chance to win the bracket pool.

Especially if you have internet access.

Ahhh, but before you search for strengths and weakness of each of the teams in the ever-growing field, just fire up Nate Silver's award-winning blog FiveThirtyEight.com and he's got the entire tournament planned out for you.

Wait, isn't Silver the guy who predicted the last two presidential elections almost exactly? What in the name of Hank Iba does he know about college basketball?

Yes, it's the same Nate Silver, and yes, he did correctly predict both the election and re-election of Barack Obama. However, what he knows about college basketball is inconsequential because he knows statistics. Or, better put, he knows that statistical metrics have historically done a better job in correctly predicting the NCAA tournament and he combines them to create his super rankings, which gives him the percentage that each team wins each of their games.

Louisville, according to Silver's 'polling' -- if you will -- has a 22.7% chance of winning the national championship, and a 59.2% chance of reaching the Final Four. That's good for me, since I picked the Cardinals to win the Midwest Region when the brackets were released Sunday night. It's all there, in bracket form, and it gives you the percentage that each team wins each game.

Hold on for a second. I thought filling out a bracket -- or several brackets -- was supposed to be fun? Where's the fun in just playing the percentages -- someone else's percentages at that? Are you a professional bracket filler outer? Is this your job? Does success determine your monthly income, or provide for the kids' college fund, or go towards the summer vacation? Way to take the fun out of the tournament.

Do you know what's fun about mapping out the brackets for the NCAA Tournament? Picking the right upset, that's what's fun about the brackets. Do you know how many real upsets Nate Silver, or Ken Pomeroy -- whose 'Log 5' formula led my man, Joe Ovies, to a last place finish in 2012 -- or the ESPN Bracket Predictor spit out? How about zero. Nada. Zippo.

Yep, that's fun.

You know there's going to be an upset, and because you've gone all Wonder Bread on the thing, you've got no chance to puff out your chest and hold your nose up in the air when the 14-seed you WOULD have picked beats the 3-seed you thought was a fraud since November -- yes, I'm looking at you Marquette.

You know who always seems to win the office pool? Someone's dog. Yep, Joanne in accounting brought the brackets home and since it was her boyfriend's bowling night and she hadn't watched a college basketball game since Bo made her watch One On One with Robby Benson, she told Biscuit the bloodhound the names of the teams and whichever direction he angled his head in a confused stare, she went that way.

And she won.

And everyone laughed, because it's funny. Well, everyone but you, because you ripped the picks straight from Silver's web site and started spending the winnings on iTunes before the tournament even started. I mean he got the election on the money, right?

In my view, your office pool during the NCAA tournament is NOT something to be taken seriously. Have fun with it. If you don't know enough about the teams, come up with an alternate method of selection. In year's past I've used the Dominant Mascot Theory to select teams. Try it.

Pair up the nicknames of the two teams -- or, if you choose to substitute the mascots to suit your own agenda, that's fine, have some fun -- then decide which would survive if locked in battle. Here's how I work it…

Big cats like Tigers pretty much have the run of the animal kingdom. If two Tigers are matched up, you have to figure something out, but be creative. If it's the Tigers against the Panthers, Tigers win. On the Big Cat Big Board, tigers rule. Lions are next, followed by Panthers, Jaguars, Leopards and Cheetahs. Fortunately, not all of the wild felines are represented this year. The only animals that would beat a big cat would be a group of angry beasts.

The Wolfpack comes to mind, and that bodes well if you're an NC State fan looking for a reason to pick your guys over the Hoosiers, a bunch of dudes from Indiana. Talk about an easy walk into the Sweet 16. In fact, the DMT has State racing all the way to the Elite Eight, beating the Montana Grizzlies along the way. The most intriguing match up of the first round in my bracket matched the Michigan State Spartans and the Crusaders of Valparaiso.

Talk about a dilemma.

The Spartans, one of the first civil societies, were also one of the great land-fighting forces in the history of the ancient world. Meanwhile, the Crusades were a relentless, religion-driven series of wars that lasted more than 500 years. Sparty was tough -- they nearly defeated the mammoth Persian army with advanced weaponry, clever strategy and their bronze body armor. Their reputation was so off the charts that even Alexander the Great himself attacked elsewhere rather than tread on the Spartans turf. But, for the sheer relentless style of the Crusaders who, driven by their religious zeal, kept bringing wave after wave after wave of forces, my pick had to be Valparaiso.

In fact, Valpo made it all the way to Final Four, not too shabby for a 14th seed. Unfortunately, the ultimate trump card in the Dominant Mascot Theory is a natural disaster. Mother Nature is undefeated, my friends and there's just nothing you can do about it. Even the Crusaders, a collection of human beings no matter how driven and relentless they may be, would be at the mercy of the Cyclones of Iowa State. If the twister wants to take you out, there's just nothing you're going to do to stop it.

So, according to the theory, on one side of the bracket we have the Crusaders and the Cyclones, while on the other the Kansas Jayhawks survived a rather benign region as a fictitious bird that simply confused all opponents on their way to the Final Four. Waiting for the Jayhawks would be the University of Miami Hurricanes -- there's that natural disaster again.

Well, you know the theory. Cyclones and Hurricanes are just two much for the motivated humans and the imaginary birds, so who's it going to be, the Cyclones of Iowa State or the Hurricanes of Miami?

Your national champion? Thanks to the double-barreled attack of torrential rain and relentless 100 MPH winds, the U took out ISU in an epic championship game televised for the first time on the Weather Channel.

It's the NCAA Tournament. It's supposed to be fun. Have some. Then wow your friends and family with how you came up with the champion, because the real fun isn't just winning, it's being unique when you do so.

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  • randdjacobs Mar 21, 2:13 p.m.

    The only fun way is to win the office pool. If you ain't first you're last.

  • GunnyGoesArrrgh Mar 21, 7:21 a.m.

    For all the games I watch, research I do on SOS, RPI, etc., my brackets are always busted by the first weekend. Throwing darts would be more successful. But, you're absolutely right, it should be - and is - fun.

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Local
Final
UNC 66
BUT 74
Final
ECU 73
HAW 75
Final
DUKE 93
FUR 54
Final
CHA 97
POR 105
Final
NCSU 84
RICH 72
Final
FLA 1
CAR 0
7:00pm Tonight
UNC
UCLA
 
Final
PHI 91
BRK 99
Final
ORL 96
GSW 111
Final
CHA 97
POR 105
Final
CLE 113
WAS 87
Final
DET 98
LAC 104
Final
DAL 109
NYK 102
Final
ATL 115
TOR 126
Final
MIN 86
MIL 103
Final
HOU 102
SAC 89
Final
OKC 97
UTA 82
Final
SAN 106
IND 100
Final
PHO 120
DEN 112
Final
LAL 93
MEM 99
7:30pm Tonight
TEXAM
LSU
7:30pm Tonight
TEX
TCU
Final
UNC 66
BUT 74
Final
FRES 64
MAR 68
Final
CHAT 61
RMU 46
Final
EMICH 68
ROCH 35
 
Final
MRGST 51
LIB 50
 
Final
HAMP 60
AMER 64
 
Final
BEL 78
DEN 57
Final
UMASS 79
NE 54
Final
JMU 79
SHU 72
 
Final
KNST 84
SAMF 71
 
Final
ECU 73
HAW 75
Final
CHAM 60
MIZZ 74
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CCAR 61
LAMON 48
Final
OKLA 75
UCLA 65
Final
ELON 65
UNF 72
 
Final
UWMIL 66
ORU 69
Final
WCU 66
CHIST 61
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DUKE 93
FUR 54
Final
BYU 85
PURD 87
Final
EVAN 79
USF 72
Final
COL 71
GTDNS 75
 
Final
VERM 73
BRY 47
 
Final
OSU 91
CAMP 64
Final
LOU 45
CLST 33
Final
UCF 69
DAVID 95
Final
IONA 126
DELST 76
 
Final
OU 78
UGST 83
Final
TOWS 97
GOUCHER 43
 
Final
ND 81
GRAM 54
 
Final
YALE 82
LAF 60
 
Final
GWU 91
LONG 66
 
Final
VT 78
UMO 63
Final
WAKE 83
MNTER 49
 
Final
NAVY 67
PSUHARRIS 42
 
Final
NCSU 84
RICH 72
Final
MINN 61
STJ 70
Final
JVU 69
TRINBAPT 57
 
Final
YOUNG 66
UMKC 63
 
Final
UAB 43
WISC 72
Final
CORN 67
CAN 60
Final
WVU 103
VMI 72
Final
DEP 74
LEH 86
 
Final
UNT 67
MVSU 52
 
Final
MARS 68
MORE 77
Final
TCU 74
RAD 50
 
Final
SELA 86
TENT 65
 
Final
SMU 72
TXSOU 59
 
Final
UTAH 85
TXPA 48
Final
LMU 66
UCR 62
Final
SCAR 89
UNCA 75
 
Final
SD 86
WAYNEST 69
 
Final
PITT 70
KYST 47
Final
UWGB 59
FLGC 45
Final
IOWA 70
NILL 49
Final
ORST 69
AUB 71
Final
MONT 75
CARROLLMT 52
 
Final
SUTAH 64
EKENT 73
Final
NMST 78
FAM 33
 
Final
WYO 65
STET 41
 
Final
EWASH 81
NKENTUCKY 60
 
Final
IDST 57
WLVRN 60
 
Final
GEOR 66
UF 65
Final
GONZ 88
UGA 76
Final
NIOWA 61
NW 42
Final
CAL 72
CPSL 52
Final
UCD 77
UTST 70
Final
SDST 59
ARZ 61
Final
NDAK 75
ALAST 68
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CSNO 55
PORST 63
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AKAN 62
PAC 71
Final
OKST 73
TULSA 58
Final
COLST 76
MIZST 61
12:00pm Today
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RMU
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1:00pm Today
BUT
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2:00pm Today
BRO
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2:00pm Today
UTEP
PRIN
 
2:30pm Today
CHAT
CCAR
 
2:30pm Today
RIU
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3:30pm Today
USCU
FIU
 
3:30pm Today
GEOR
WISC
 
4:00pm Today
USB
LIU
 
4:30pm Today
XAV
SDU
 
5:00pm Tonight
INDST
ILL
 
6:00pm Tonight
WRST
CSFU
 
6:00pm Tonight
STJOE
WKENT
 
6:30pm Tonight
RIDE
MSU
 
7:00pm Tonight
UNC
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8:30pm Tonight
WMICH
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8:30pm Tonight
GT
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9:00pm Tonight
PVU
STEPH
 
9:30pm Tonight
MERC
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9:30pm Tonight
UF
UAB
 
11:00pm Tonight
WASH
SJST
 
11:59pm Tonight
MEM
BAY
 
11:59pm Tonight
UCSB
WASU
 
Final
NYI 3
WAS 2
Final
BUF 1
WIN 2
Final
FLA 1
CAR 0
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TAM 4
NYR 3
Final
DET 5
PHI 2
Final
PIT 4
TOR 3
Final
MIN 0
LOS 4
Final
COL 2
CHI 3
Final
SJS 0
CAL 2
8:00pm Tonight
NAS
EDM
 
12:30pm Today
DET
CHI
4:30pm Today
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PHI
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SEA