The NCAA mens basketball tournament is underway and life is good again. People who love sports and people who avoid sports alike have filled out their brackets and folks are already highlighting and crossing off good and bad picks, respectively.
In about 18 years of filling out brackets, I have won 3 pools. That's once every 6 years. If I was a comet, I would be legendary. Each time I've won, it's because I've followed my own simple rules and ended being being the only person to predict something that happened that year. The first time, it was Michigan's Fab Five making the finals. The second time, it was point guard Scoonie Penn, shooter Michael Redd and big man Ken Johnson leading Ohio State into the Final Four. The third time it was picking high-seeded Gonzaga and Stanford to lose in the second round.
I have rules and they are good. Ignore them at your own peril. Also ignore the fact that if I won 3 times, that means I lost 15 times.
1) Never pick West Coast teams to go far. These floppy-haired teams are soft. They play a full season in the Pac-10 or WCC or whatever, where everybody plays an excessively polite game. Three-pointers aren't defended and if somebody catches the ball in the post, the defense clears out so they can have a neat layup. These doughy, sun-streaked teams inevitably go up against a Midwestern or Eastern team that actually works on throwing elbows in practice and they're worn down to a nub.
(NOTE: Occasionally a Western team like UCLA or the '96 Arizona team is so dominant that they trascend this rule. However, I have Stanford losing to Marquette in the second round.)
2) Do NOT pick a team to make the Final Four unless they have all three of the following: a good point guard, a capable big man and a three-point shooter. You want to experience pure misery? Pick a defensively-minded team to make the finals, then watch their second round game. When they're down 48-41 with ten minutes to go and utterly unable to create some offense, your friends will put you on suicide watch. It's equally frustrating to watch a small team get crushed on the offensive glass. Oh my God, is that frustrating.
3) Bobby Knight and Bob Huggins will never, ever make it past the second round. Knight retired, unfortunately for our brackets, but Huggins is still flailing away in West Virgnia. If you pick the Moutaineers to make the Sweet Sixteen, thanks for your donation. If you pick them to lose to Arizona, you're cool like me. Then I have Arizona losing to Duke, so no, I didn't break my own rule, smart guy.
4) Certain coaches will always blow a high seed. Yes you, Roy Williams. You too, Lute Olsen. And most definitely you, John Calipari. I'd mention you here, Mike Montgomery, but Stanford finally got sick of you a few years back.
(NOTE: Like Rule #1, cccasionally a team is so dominant that they transcend this rule. Those type of years go in my 15 column, not my 3 column.)
5) You need to have at least 75% of your picks survive each round. Meaning you need at least 12 of the Sweet Sixteen, 6 of the Elite Eight and 3 of the Final Four. Keep that in mind when picking some sort of Cinderella run.
So there you have it! Simply follow these easy rules and you too can win your office pool once every sextennial!