It is finally here! No, not The Bachelor finale. Not the iPad 2. March Madness, baby! The 68 teams were selected last night, and the first match-ups are set. In offices everywhere, employees are using company time and computers to research and fill out their brackets with who's going to beat who in the Big Dance.
You'll hear that term a lot over the next few days -- your bracket. Not sure what a bracket is? It's just a fancy word for the print-out of the tournament schedule. You have this paper with lots of games. All these guys are doing to fill it out is basically predicting who's going to win each game. Many have tried-and-true methods for filling out their sheets. Some surf around the Internet, culling info from experts to help them make their decisions. Others just flip a coin.
Say you want to play along, get in on the fun, but have no clue? Sure, you could break out your Magic 8 Ball, but we've got info and 7 great hints on how you can win your office pool.
The March Madness bracket is lovely in its simplicity -- it's like a beautiful butterfly with four wings, er, regions: the east, the west, the southwest, the southeast. Each of the lucky 68 teams are selected by a committee and placed in a seed in a specific region. A seed is nothing more than a rank -- the lower your seed number, the better the team. No. 1 seeds are the best and No. 16 seeds are the worst of the bunch. If a team wins, they move on to the next round.
In most pools, you win by getting the highest number of points. You get points by selecting the correct winner of each game, from the first rounds all of the way to the finals. Many pools give extra points for upsets -- when a lower-seeded team beats a higher-seeded team, when a David beats a Goliath, so to speak. When you're filling out your sheet, keep these things in mind:
1. A No. 16 seed has never beaten a No. 1 seed. As much as it would be really cool to see such an upset, it has never happened. Some have gotten close, very close, but no cigar. As much as you may want to see little Hampton beat Duke, it probably isn't a good bet.
2. Only once have all No. 1 seeds made it to the Final Four. This is good to remember in the later rounds. As much as you may think, "Oh, they are the No. 1 seed, so they must all make it to the finals!" don't be so sure.
3. When looking for upsets in the early rounds, look at where the teams are playing. If the team has to fly cross-country and change time zones, that may throw players off, especially those on lower-seeded teams.
4. If you want to pick some upsets, look to Lucky No. 12. According to those stats guys, a No. 12 seeded team has beaten a No. 5 seeded team 35 times -- that's 33 percent of the time.
5. Unless your fave team is seeded 1-6, check your school pride at the door. Nothing is worse than picking your No. 14 seeded school to go all the way and then be peeved because not only is your team out, you've lost your office pool but still have to sit on the couch and watch the games with your husband. Or do what I do: fill out one or two sheets using different strategies. Gives you better odds to have fun for the whole three weeks you are bombarded with basketball.
6. If you want to do any research, concentrate on checking out how many seniors are on each team. The NCAA Tournament is definitely a time when age matters. The "older" the team, the more experience they have playing together, especially in pressure situations.
7. When in doubt, pick the team with the better mascot. Also going by the school colors that you like best works. These are my little not-so-secret secrets.
Will you be filling out a NCAA Tournament bracket?
Image via NCAA