Avoid picking any teams on the West Coast and stick to one of the popular schools from the ACC or SEC, if you want a couple of quick tips to winning your March Madness college basketball office pool.
Whether you are a fan of college basketball or not, it’s that time of year to fill out a bracket in your office pool even though you have no clue what you are doing. Your future will also come down to top-ranked Gonzaga (30-3). Will the Zags repeat history and bust out, or blaze a new trail as the first West Coast team to win a title in 22 years?
The other major key to winning your pool is to identify the size. Believe it or not, size does matter.
If you are playing in a small pool that is under 40 or 50 people, then you have a better chance of winning your pool by picking chalk and sticking with favorites. If you play in a large pool with several hundred, or even thousands of entrants, then you are going to have to be precise and get a little lucky with guessing an upset or two.
To thrive in a small pool, you really need to focus on getting as many Elite Eight teams as possible and nailing at least three of the four Final Four teams. You do not have to sweat that much if you missed a Cinderella like Loyola-Chicago last year, so long as you got the other three teams locked down.
To take down a big pool, you need perfection and luck. You must nail all four Final Four teams. You will also have to figure out which underdogs will make a run to the Sweet 16. That will take a little creativity. Every year someone comes from out of nowhere to pull off major upsets. Which team will be this year’s Florida Gulf Coast, VCU, or George Mason?
It would be wise to pick a couple of mid-majors to go deep if you are in large pool with 100-plus entrants, but don’t give them too much credit past the Final Four.
Power Six or Bust
If Gonzaga wins this year, they will be only the sixth team in the last four decades to win the NCAA championship without being a member of a major conference.
Since 1979, only five winners were not from the Power Six Conferences (Big East, ACC, SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, and Pac-12). The ACC won 12 titles, followed by the Big East (9), SEC (6), and Big Ten (5). The Big 12 and Pac-12 won twice each in the last 40 years.
One of those non-major conference champions, UCONN, had previously been a member of the Big East. The Huskies were a part of the American Athletic Conference (AAC) when they won the titles in 2011 and 2014.
UNLV, representing the Big West, won in 1990. Louisville won two titles under legendary coach Denny Crum in 1980 and 1986. Louisville was a key member of the Metro Conference, which is no longer in existence.
No More California Love
The tournament is not kind to West Coast teams. The Pac-12 has only two wins since 1995 and have not won since 1997. John Wooden used up all of UCLA’s good mojo when he won ten titles between 1964 and 1975. UCLA only once since then and the Pac-12 only won the NCAA championship twice since then. UCLA is the last team from California to win the title with a victory in 1995.
Arizona is the only other Pac-12 team to win the championship since 1975. UNLV is the only other team west of the Rockies to win the title since then.
The Pac-12 has been slacking these days and UCLA fired their coach midseason. The Pac-12 were on the verge of sending only one team to March Madness this year until a late surge from Arizona State. The overall decline of the hoops in the west is a reason you should probably avoid selecting any teams located in the Mountain or Pacific time zones.
Gonzaga will be a popular pick this year, but history is against them. Most recently, St. Mary’s upset Gonzaga in the WCC championship game to earn a berth to March Madness.