The Simple Dollar Extra Edition: Your Local NCAA Tournament Pool

This isn’t really personal finance advice, but I felt compelled to post this because of the ongoing NCAA men’s basketball tournament and the prevalence of office pools. If you’re not interested, feel free to skip this post; this is merely an extra posting to fill people in on the details of a strategy for filling out your brackets that I use and that doesn’t require any knowledge of college basketball.

I have been doing NCAA tournament office pools for as long as I can remember, and each year I do the same exact thing, time and again. Time and again, I’m near the top of the office pool. The best part about this strategy is that you don’t have to know a single thing about college basketball to do well with it.

So, if you’re in an office pool but know nothing at all about college basketball, here’s what you do.

For the first two rounds, pick nothing but the favorites in every single game. You’ll get the vast majority of your picks right and you also won’t fall flat on your face because you spent your time picking upsets. This means your Sweet Sixteen should be nothing but one, two, three, and four seeds.

For the rest of the tournament, ignore the seeds and pick the team that had the most wins over the last fifteen games of the season. You can get this information at ESPN.com fairly easily by looking at the full season schedules. If you use this strategy in 2007, that means you’ll have Georgetown as your tournament winner, playing Kansas in the title game, and Florida and Ohio State being your other Final Four entrants.

This is exactly how I picked my bracket each of the last five years, and I have been in the top half of the finishers every year, with two years of actually winning the pool. The strategy is this: I just assume that the top seeded schools really are the best ones until they start facing each other, at which point the hottest team will win.

This strategy won’t win any major online bracket-picking challenges, but it will ensure you a good finish in a small pool.

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5 thoughts on “The Simple Dollar Extra Edition: Your Local NCAA Tournament Pool

  1. nsb says:

    I had a question about listing my home as a negative value presented by the remaining mortgage or as a positive value on as presented by Zillow.com, for example. I think the right answer is to be consistent across the board. Really, I just wanted to make sure I can post on this site…. Thanks!

  2. nsb says:

    Also, I’m fully planning on using this technique….

  3. Bobby says:

    I figured I would keep track of this just to see what would happen. By my figures, Ohio St and Memphis were both 15-0 if you count the tournaments as part of the 15 games. Which means one of them would be the winner as they are both in the San Antonio regional.

    Also, do you go with the higher seeded team if they have the same 15 game record?

  4. Nathan says:

    This method really is only made to combat the office pool players who are already be going to be choosing based on seed and whether or not the name sounds good. I can see this method doing alright, but the reality is that the final rounds get you so many points, it might be better to just go to espn and completely copy one of the analyst’s picks. This year is a particularly strange year for seeding, lots of unexplained teams getting bumped up or down so I’m curious to see how it does.

    If you want to risk it, but for big payoffs in the end, you could use some other steadfast “rules” and pick at least one 12 seed over a 5, make sure you have a team in the finals that isn’t a 1 or 2, and make sure your final four doesn’t have all 1s and 2s as well. Also, if history is any indication don’t pick a team to repeat as champions.

  5. Don says:

    How do you factor tie-breakers?

    I have UNC and Texas with both 11-4 records in the sweet sixteen. Who wins? The higher seed?

    And I too had 15-0 for OSU and Memphis. Georgetown and Kansas are 14-1. My beloved Wisconsin Badgers are only 11-4, losing to behated Florida in the sweet sixteen. It’ll hurt but I’ll stay with the system (especially with B. Butch out).

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