March 14, 2011 / 9:23 PM / 6 years ago

Winning a March Madness pool: emotion or expertise?

3 Min Read

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Pssst. Your March Madness bracket is waiting to be completed.

You bombed out early last year by picking Kansas to win it all. In case you haven't noticed, they are a No. 1 seed again.

It is that agonizing time of year, when die-hard college basketball fans hatch elaborate strategies to pick NCAA tournament winners, only to be beaten by colleagues choosing by jersey color or nicknames.

Twenty percent of U.S. employees participate in a March Madness pool at work, according to a 2010 survey by CareerBuilders.com. Tens of billions of dollars change hand in the process.

"Do you go with veterans? Do you go with good guards? Do you go with the hot team? Do you go with the power conferences?" asked Dave Nagle, a spokesman for ESPN, which will televise more than 60 games of the tournament.

"Or you choose by nicknames -- sometimes that can work just as well," he said.

For Jeff Malach, 27, an attorney who has participated in pools for years, emotion is not part of the process.

"I pick based upon my knowledge. I like teams with good guards, experienced coaches, teams with seniors, and I also listen a bit to what the experts say."

If you are like Malach, here are a few facts that might help:

** The most successful teams in NCAA tournament history are the UCLA Bruins, the Indiana Hoosiers, North Carolina Tar Heels, and the Duke Blue Devils. Cross Indiana off the list. They did not make the cut of 68 teams this year.

** Only once in the history of the tournament have all four top-seeded teams made it to the Final Four, according to www.docsports.com, a sports handicapping site.

** A top-seeded team has never lost to the 16th seeded team, the website says.

** Two No. 1 seeds have faced each other in the final game just six times.

** A No. 12 seed has never made it beyond the Elite Eight.

** A No. 13 or 14 seed has never done better than the Sweet Sixteen.

** The lowest seed to win it all was No. 8 Villanova nearly 30 years ago.

** A No. 2 seed has a 96 percent chance of beating the 15 seed in the first round, according to analysis from Betonline.com.

None of this matters though, for people like California native Caitlin Rowlands, who won her first-ever NCAA tournament pool in 2003 by picking the winner of each game by her association with each team.

"I picked Syracuse because my mom is from New York and UConn because my dad went there for graduate school. I picked Gonzaga because I liked how it sounded," said Rowlands, 27, a New Product Specialist at Illinois Tool Works in Chicago."

Pssst. Your bracket is still waiting.

Editing by Greg McCune

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