5 Tips for Winning Your NCAA Pool! Kevin Datoo

The 2014 NCAA tournament is here!!  

Not a hoops fan? Not a problem. Here are five quick pointers to help you fill out a winning bracket.

Tip #1: Enter the pool

It’s obvious that “you can’t win if you don’t play,” but in my experience, too many people avoid the NCAA pool because they aren’t basketball fans. It’s a valid point, but NCAA pools are as much a social event as House of Cards and Pretty Little Liars. Since it’s going to dominate the conversation for the next three weeks, you should participate. Agree? Good. Now that you’re going to play, you might as well win, right?

Tip #2: Use the Seeds

The 64 teams are broken into four geographical regions of 16 teams each. Each Region has a #1 seed (a fantastic team) and a #16 seed (a really good team) and everything in between. Your bracket shows you who will play whom in each game and you have to pick a winner of each game in each round. The seed numbers will be your roadmap. Historically #1 seeds are 116-0 against #16 seeds. #2 seeds are 109-7 against #15 seeds. So in theory, it’s pretty good odds to take the lower numbered team in the first round. However, #8 seeds have beaten #9 seeds only 48% of the time. So, make sure you …

Tip #3: Don’t Be a Slave to the Seeds

Picking all favorites is easy, but it rarely works. 2008 was the only year that all four #1 seeds reached the Final Four. If you “pick by numbers” you won’t win, and frankly it isn’t all that fun. It’s called March Madness for a reason right?


You need to take some chances. In Round 1, look for potential upsets in the games that pit the #5 vs. #12, #7 vs. #10, #8 vs. #9. The question is which upsets to pick and I recommend you …

Tip #4: Follow Your Heart

Don’t let your pool make you hate yourself in the morning. There’s nothing worse than rooting against a team you like because your pool tells you to. So go ahead and pick the team that hails from your home state or pick against the school that rejected your college application.

Tip #5: Create a Theme

Picking on a theme is a very boom / bust strategy – and trust me, I’ve seen them both. In 2011, I entered a pool from the perspective of my dog, a husky named Clyde. Together, we advanced teams with dog and wolf mascots and eliminated those with cat and bird mascots. When #3 Connecticut (Huskies) defeated #8 Butler (Bulldogs) in the final game, we won in a landslide. But in 2012, I finished dead last after listening to my 3-yr old daughter (who was into colors) pick the Duke Blue Devils and Syracuse Orange for the final. Themes run the gamut from the ordinal (alphabetical, geographical) to the emotional (mascot battles, colors) but true devotion to the theme is most often a losing cause.

So if you enter a pool, seek guidance from the Seed Numbers, and customize your entry just enough to make it your own – then it’s time to enjoy the games. This Thursday and Friday are the big days – find a place to have lunch with your office-mates where you can watch the games. If you find yourself winning at any point, it’s important to talk trash as soon as possible. The tournament is a fickle beast and can turn quickly against you. And if you win the whole thing, don’t forget to buy everyone in your office donuts!!

Not in an office pool? Then join the HelloGiggles pool here! We will also have a NCAA women’s bracket up after selections are made!

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