March Madness Picks Strategy
Stick with the Odds
Everyone has their own way of filling out their March Madness Brackets. Some just pick the highest seeds, some pick their favorite teams, others fill their brackets with upsets in hopes that they will find great luck. Well guess what, the number one strategy to win your office pool is none of these options. You should instead stick with the odds that the linesmakers come up with. They are very accurate at determining the favorites of each game and the favorites for the entire tournament, this is what they do for a living. And contrary to what you might think, the highest seed is not always the favorite.
So, our first recommendation is to check the odds with an online sportsbook. This will let you know who is expected to win each game and by how many points they are expected to win by. It will also tell you the odds of each team winning the entire tournament. Just in case you have never read odds before here are a couple quick examples.
Example: Favorite for each game
Ohio State Buckeyes -7
Kansas Jayhawks +7
What this means is the Buckeyes are favorites to win this game by 7 points, the favorite is always represented by the minus sign. And of course the Jayhawks are the underdog which is always represented by the plus sign.
Example: Favorites to win tournament
Ohio State +250
North Carolina Tar Heels +400
Duke Blue Devils +450
Tennessee Volunteers +1500
The sportsbook takes all the teams in the tournament and gives the odds they have on winning the entire tournament. The closest the number is to 100, the better chance they have. Of the teams listed in the above examples the Buckeyes would have the best chance of winning the tournament and the Volunteers would have the least chance.
Everyone likes to pick a few upsets, and there will be upsets in every single tournament. We just suggest not going too crazy with your upset picks. Check out our article on NCAA Tournament Upsets by Seed to see the odds of each seed winning their first round game. Remember that no #1 seed has never been beaten by a #16 seed and no seed lower than 12 has ever made it past the sweet 16. If you do decide to pick a cinderella team, we recommend at the most, picking them for the first two rounds. The last thing you want to do is take a #10 seed to the final four and see them get knocked out in the first round like they're supposed to. My general rule of thumb is to only pick an upset team to win in the first round. We have created a couple of different tables that show the past performances based on their seed. The first page is the NCAA Tournament Wins Per Seed, which will show you the number of times and percentages that each seed has won the National Championship. The second page is the Final Four Appearances Per Seed, which lists all of the Final Four teams, along with their seed and the percentage of time each seed has reached the Final Four.
At Large Bids or Conference Tournament Champions?
Pay close attention to how teams got in the tournament, 32 teams get automatic bids by winning their conference tournaments. This does not necessarily mean that they will be contenders in the big dance. The teams that got at-large bids have showed they deserve to be there by consistently winning all season.
Hedge Your Picks
I call this strategy "hedging my picks". One of the best strategies is to dig deep into the tournament, look at each possible match-up a team will have. Even though you think a certain #1 seed is the best team in the tournament, you must look at how tough a road to the championship game that particular team has compared to some of the other number one seeds. Look at the likelihood of that team possibly being beaten by a strong #8,#4,#2 seed. If another #1 seed has an easier road to the championship you might be better off "hedging your pick" and choosing that team to win it all.
Remember, you're not going to pick all games correctly. To win the office pool it will probably take a little luck, but by following the few simple strategies listed above, you should have a slight advantage on your opponents!
If you are hosting the office pool check out our sample Bracket Scoring Systems and also use our Fillable NCAA Tournament Bracket to type in your scoring by round before printing the bracket. If you're looking for other office pools to run during the tournament we recommend trying our March Madness Square Pool, which is similar to the Super Bowl Squares, except there is a winning square for every game of the tournament and also our March Madness Props Pool where you try to correctly guess the outcome of 20 questions related to the tournament.