How to Win Your March Madness Bracket

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Even if you’re not a college basketball fan, you’ve surely heard that March Madness begins later this week, sparking office pools and family tournaments everywhere.

According to research Web site BookofOdds.com, only one in 20 people consider college basketball a favorite sport, but one in 2.27 workers will join their office March Madness pool. That math adds up to more than 40 million brackets, according to the site.

With so many uninformed and inexperienced bracketers entering this year’s pools, strategy and research are the keys to bringing home the top prize. Luckily, Tom Federico, co-founder and CEO of TeamRankings.com, has some tips for how to make your brackets the best they can be.

1. Weigh the market. Knowing your competitors and their strategies is just as valuable as defining your own. “You need to match your bracket's risk level to the size of your office pool. You're not going to win a big bracket pool picking all favorites, but it's also unwise to get all wild and crazy with your upset picks if you're only competing against 10 or 15 people,” Federico says.

2. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. MainStreet asked Federico if buying more than one bracket in your pool could help you hedge your bets and promise you a big win. His advice: “If you're ‘the same smart’ as everyone else, well, it's just like buying 2 lottery tickets instead of 1. Higher cost, higher potential return, but not necessarily better.” So, don’t go plunking down $50 for five brackets when most of your picks are just guesses and your coworker is using stats and inside knowledge to craft his or her picks.

3. Statistics matter. It’s easy to jump on the Syracuse bandwagon or to just “have a good feeling” about Pittsburgh, but Federico says stats don’t lie. “Good data driven projections, and our BracketBrains product specifically, is worth it because (a) sophisticated data analysis on all 64 tournament teams is hard to come by and (b) the public, the media, and your mom are all biased human beings...all brainwashed by meaningless statistics quoted on TV every day, and by their personal love affairs with certain college teams.” BracketBrains is a product that gives paying subscribers access to tips, stats and recommendations for a fee, one of many options for finding statistical analysis online.

4. Entering more than one pool can pay off, but it might not. “… If you're invited to the MIT Astrophysics Alumni Pool, I'd probably take a pass on that one. However, I'd gladly enter any pool composed of famous ‘Basketball Experts.’”

5. Remember it’s a game… a game of skill. Federico’s site, which offers statistical analysis and picks for any bracketer, is full of info to help you make choices, but your bracket is up to you. The bottom line, Federico says, is to “have fun, pick objectively and don't be afraid to go against the grain. Be the Cobra Kai of your March Madness pools — there is no fear in your bracket-picking dojo!” Sweep the leg!

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