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How to Win Your Office Pool

   by ASA - 03/18/2009

Don’t get fancy. Don’t try to be the “smart guyâ€쳌 in the office who miraculously picks Cal State Northridge to advance to the Final Four. Just don’t. Because there is an extremely high probability it will not work out in your favor. Keep it simple.

It’s easy to look at your bracket and see a 5th-seeded Illinois team, which lost 38-33 at home to Penn State in inarguably the ugliest game of the season, and think the Illini are an easy pick to be the annual No. 5 seed to fall in the first round. Especially when they’re playing a Western Kentucky that advanced to the Sweet 16 as a No. 12 seed last year.

The odds just aren’t there, though. No. 5 seeds are 65-31 (.677) in the first round of the tourney since 1985. Keep it simple.

The same can be seed for No. 6 versus No. 11 matchup. On the surface, Marquette looks like a great choice for a first-round upset. The Golden Eagles are just 1-5 in their last six entering the tourney and are without floor leader Dominic James. Throw in the fact that Marquette is playing Utah State, which boasts an impressive 30-4 overall record, and it looks like upset city.

The chances of a No. 11 seed pulling off an upset are even lower in this matchup. No. 6 seeds are 66-30 (.688) in the first round since 1985. Again, keep it simple.

As teams get closer together in seeding, it’s even easier to want to pick an upset. In the No. 7 versus No. 10 game in the Midwest, USC looks like a great option to upset Boston College after winning the Pac-10 Tournament championship. Boston College went just 4-5 in its last nine games so it’s understandable.

Despite the closeness in seeding, an upset just doesn’t go down that often. No. 7 seeds are 60-36 (.625) in the first round since 1985. Keep it simple.

In the end, the top teams will come out on top. Teams seeded one through four are an incredible 344-40 (.896) in the first round since 1985. Amongst this group, teams are 1,003-452 (.689) in all games in the NCAA Tournament, including 22 of the last 24 national championships.

Surprisingly, last season marked the first time all four No. 1 seeds advanced to the Final Four with Kansas, Memphis, UCLA and North Carolina all winning their regions. That led to two No. 1 seeds facing off in the national championship. Since 1985, that is quite uncommon as it has happened only five times since 1985. But it’s not that uncommon recently as it has occurred in three of the last four tourneys.

The message remains the same. Keep it simple. The better teams are seeded higher for a reason. By and large, they are the better team.

But that doesn’t mean that Western Kentucky can’t take out Illinois.

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