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