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By Drew Markol, TSN Contributor - Archive - Email
Nobody asked me, but...
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - This is the year you finally win your *%#+!*! March Madness office pool, right?

Oh, guess again.

A co-worker who isn't much of a basketball fan, or somebody who has their cat make their picks, will win. It never fails.

And you? Like me, will grumble and wonder how could this be?

We watch as much college basketball as anybody out there.

We listen to the sports talk radio, uh, experts and try and remember who their sleepers and dark horses are.

We check the Las Vegas odds for every first-round game and go with the chalk for the games we're not sure about.

We are, in a word, prepared. Every year we're prepared. I hate that word this time of year. And, yet, we never win.

(As an aside, just one time I'd like to pull a George Costanza and do the opposite. For every team I think will win I'd pick the other side. My mind wouldn't allow it, but I bet it would be fun. Picking a 16 seed to beat a 1 seed and so on. It wouldn't work and you wouldn't win, but you're not going to win anyway. OK, I'm going in circles here, let's get back to issue at hand. That issue is trying to find the best course to take to have a chance. Here?s a couple of ideas that can help - but remember, they've never fully worked for me.)

1. Don't, and I can't stress this enough, pick your favorite team to win it all. It won't happen. Even if you're a Miami Heat fan and they let them in the tournament, don't do it. It'll only break your heart.

2. If you do pick your favorite team, and they have a tight game in the next round, pick them to lose even if it kills you. Chances are they will lose and it will help you. Winning cash feels nice. However, if they happen to win, at least you can be happy for a few minutes.

3. Don't play more than one pool. You think if you do you'll increase your odds of winning. Not the case. There are too many games that you'll pick the same team to win, naturally they won't, and you'll end up a double loser and out double the cash.

4. Always pick the teams that make their foul shots. There are very few blowouts after the opening round of play. After that, free throws become huge because the games are tight and the teams that are tight from the foul line lose. Check free throw percentages for every team and make note of it. You'll be happy you did.

5. Always remember that Cinderella is, and always will be, a fairy tale. Fairy tales don't come true. Pick too many Cinderella?s and you'll end up reading a book on championship Monday while someone else gets ready to count his winnings.

6. Don't watch the games. I know, I know, this is impossible, but you have to try it. I was sitting next to a co-worker on the first Thursday one year and he went 2-for-14. Yes, that's very hard to do, and he made plenty of wacky picks to do it, but it can be done. His pool was kaput before dinner Thursday. And we laughed at him for a week. Just check the scores later and add up your wins and losses. It's much easier on the soul that way.

Oh, one more thing. I'm patting myself on the back because I didn't use the tired Big Dance nickname until now. That feels almost as good as winning the pool.

If I only knew what winning the pool felt like.

So stay cool and think straight.

And please send me half your winnings. I promise to speak well of you if you do.



Drew Markol has been a sportswriter and columnist for several newspapers in the Philadelphia area for more than 25 years.

Copyright 2012