Follow these insider tips and you might just win your NCAA basketball tournament pool.
: Several states officially bar all gambling, including pools in which the organizer does not profit. Know your local laws before organizing a pool involving money.
Step 1: Be up-to-date As soon as the tournament teams are announced, read sports sites and blogs to get the lay of the land. Look for information on programs' late-season injuries, winning and losing streaks, and post-season playing history, which may indicate how a team approaches high-pressure elimination games.
TIP: Don't limit yourself to one particular site; national news may not have access to local details, while regional information can carry a heavy hometown bias.
Step 2: Know when to use seeding Take seeding, or a team's rank, into account but don't be a slave to it; there are often upsets, most notably in the no. 5 - no.12 match-ups in the first round. Use your bracket's point system to maximize your gains, as some award more points based on the winning team's initial seeding.
TIP: Ignore rank completely starting in the Elite Eight. One study has shown that the tournament's last three rounds are statistical toss-ups.
Step 3: Get under the boards Pay attention to teams' rebounding statistics, which indicate a team's ability to judge shot quality and capitalize on opponents' mistakes with second-chance points and fast breaks.
Step 4: Take a shot Study teams' offensive stats; free throws and three-point shooting can be important factors in closing games and overcoming deficits quickly, while assists can indicate the ability to create opportunities and adjust to opponents' defensive weaknesses, as well as the capacity to work well as a team.
Step 5: Defend yourself Focus on teams that can play both a zone and a man-to-man defense, and therefore adapt easily to the variety of teams they might face during the tournament.
Step 6: Buck the trends Try to find out the picks other people in your pool are making and deviate when reasonable; choosing an unpopular team might seem daunting, but if they win, so will you. Remember: no risk, no reward.
Step 7: Trust yourself When in doubt, go with your gut. And most importantly, root from your heart – the tournament is more fun that way!
FACT: In 2008, all four no. 1-ranked teams made it to the Final Four for the first time in the tournament's 71-year history.