22 Dos and Don’ts for Your March Madness Office Pool

Duke's Grayson Allen congratulating teammate Luke Kennard
Ragging on Duke around the office is (almost) never a bad idea. Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire.

Ah, March Madness pools, those glorious battles for intra-office supremacy. If you do them right, they make for the most amusing three weeks of “work” all year. If you do them wrong, you might get terminated for cause.

Here at SportsBettingDime.com, we have been running our own office pool for years, and I consulted our brightest minds for the best dos and don’ts they have gleaned from those years of experience.

Then I ignored everything they had to say and came up with the following list on my own.

1. Don’t be the one in charge

Are you the boss? Hand that ish off to an underling. Are you an underling? Tell your bosses it would show great leadership if they took charge. Either way, make sure the buck stops elsewhere, like Harry Truman’s capricious older brother, Flynn.

2. Do collect all the money ahead of time

If you really can’t get anyone else to run the pool, make damn sure everyone pays upfront. In fact, make everyone fill out their bracket on the back of a twenty.

3. Don’t spend more time on your bracket than you did on your resume

Joanne from payroll didn’t win last year because she overanalyzed every matchup. She won because she let her dog pick most of the games.

4. Do spend more time on your bracket than you did on your hair

… unless you can get your hands on a clairvoyant canine.

5. Don’t trash talk your boss’ alma mater

No one’s saying Creighton doesn’t suck. Creighton obviously sucks. Just don’t say that out loud.

Creighton's Khyri Thomas dribbling
Creighton Bluejays guard Khyri Thomas, demonstrably sucking in 2018? Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire.

6. Do trash talk Duke (unless your boss went to Duke)

There’s a firm rule in college basketball: if you don’t love Duke, you hate Duke. There’s a good chance that trash talking Duke will endear you to a large section of your office. But make sure you do some recon first and confirm that the group of Duke-lovers in your office doesn’t include all the cool kids.

[D]o some recon [before you trash talk Duke] and confirm that the group of Duke-lovers in your office doesn’t include all the cool kids.

7. Don’t pick the team with the cutest mascot

No national champion has had a cute mascot since Brutus and the Ohio State Buckeyes won it all in 1960. Maryland’s Testudo the Terrapin isn’t cute. UConn’s Jonathan the Husky isn’t cute. I guess North Carolina’s Rameses the Ram kind of looks like a My Little Pony, but he still doesn’t make the grade (much like UNC student athletes).

8. Do pick the team with the ugliest mascot

A lot of recent champions have ugly-a** mascots. Seriously, what is that, Villanova? It looks like you put a kindergartner’s cat drawing into a 3D printer.

Villanova's Wildcat mascot
Pennsylvania’s take on the Wildcat, apparently. Photo by Villanova Law Library (flickr) <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0″>CC License</a>.

9. Don’t reposition your computer the day the tournament starts so that no one can see your screen

Too transparent. Everyone will know exactly why you did it and exactly what you’re doing now.

10. Do insist on a communal TV where everyone can watch

Pitch it as team-building or morale-boosting or whatever corporate buzzword you want to use. No one can get mad at you for not working if no one’s working.

11. Don’t procrastinate on Wednesday, March 20th

Get as much work done as you possibly can before you leave, especially if you live on the west coast, where the tourney kicks off around 9:00 AM on Thursday, March 21st!

Get as much work done as possible [the day before the tournament].

12. Do use commercial breaks wisely

With 32 games in the first two days, most of them during work hours, there’s almost always a game going on. Any time there’s an actual break in the action, do a couple minutes of honest-to-god work.

13. Don’t pick the same champion as Barack Obama

He picked the champion correctly during his first year in office and now rumors of his March Madness prowess have been greatly exaggerated.

President Obama picking his bracket
In 2009, Barack Obama started a tradition of presidential March Madness brackets. In 2010, he started a tradition of terrible presidential March Madness brackets.

14. Do pick the same champion as the accountants

That’s my way of saying follow the numbers guys. Almost all March Madness champions are ranked in the top-20 in both offensive efficiency and defensive efficiency by KenPom.com, an ultra-fancy, math-based prediction system beloved by basketball nerds like myself.

15. Don’t pick a mid-major to win it all

There are six so-called “Power Conferences” in college basketball: the ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, SEC, and Pac-12. Since 1990, only one team outside of those conferences has won the title (UConn, 2014). Here’s a handy little cheat sheet …

Buffalo Mid-American Conference
Cincinnati American Athletic Conference
Gonzaga West Coast Conference
Houston American Athletic Conference
Nevada Mountain West Conference
St. Mary’s Mountain West Conference
Wofford Southern Conference

16. Do pick a team that has won before

As outlined in these Final Four trends, only three teams have won their first championship since 2000. Here’s another handy table with the big-time programs/top seeds that have never won before. Purdue, Texas Tech, Virginia, West Virginia, Xavier.

Missouri 26
Notre Dame 36
Oklahoma 31
Purdue 29
Tennessee 21
Texas Tech 15
Virginia 22
West Virginia 29
Wichita State 15
Xavier 28

17. Don’t start spending the prize money after Round 1

One year, my wife got the first 19 games right … and finished 17th. Even though the first round holds half of the games, it counts for very little because points go up in each round.

18. Do start bragging after Round 1

Sic transit gloria. If you find yourself in the lead at any point in time, boast while you can, especially about the upsets you picked correctly. It will all come crashing down soon enough.

If you find yourself in the lead … boast while you can. It will all come crashing down soon enough.

19. Don’t fill out multiple brackets in one pool

You lose all bragging rights when you fill out more than one bracket, and there’s nothing more annoying than seeing “Dave (3)” at the top of the leaderboard, while “Dave (1)” is down in 45th.

20. Do make fun side-bets when your bracket gets busted

Did your champ go down in the second round? No matter. Find the hardcore fans in your office who also lost early. They’ll be itching to get back in on the action, so much so that they will take you up on terrible wagers.

Instead of playing for more money, make the losers publicly declare their inferiority.


A man passed out on a bar
This stock-photo model had upper management written all over him before March Madness drinking games took their toll.

21. Don’t do a shot every time an announcer says “Cinderella”

… unless you want to be passed out before the tournament is five minutes old.

22. Do perform a covert set of kegels every time an announcer says “Cinderella”

Your pelvic floor will be firmer than artisanal parmesan by the time the tournament is over.

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Let's have fun and keep it civil.