Mar 17, 2009
Few people know that my career as a "web guy" or self-proclaimed geek is a fallback from the REAL career I wanted to pursue: being a professional basketball player.
Long story short, my DNA had different plans for me, and I never had an opportunity to play basketball for a living. However, my love for the sport still gives me an edge over most anyone come this time of year, in filling out my NCAA tournament brackets.
I bleed blue and am a die-hard University of Kentucky fan. Since this is the first time in 17 years we won't be part of the tournament, I felt it was appropriate to share some secrets about how to win your office bracket pool and make the right picks.
I predicted 57 of the 63 games last year in the tournament. 2 of those losses were due to the faith I had in my Wildcats to pull a couple of upsets. With a little research, you can pick most of the winners this year. Here are a few keys that should be a huge help in picking this year's big winner and any "cinderellas":
1. Go with great guard play.
Guards dominate the tournament ... especially point guards. Point guards are floor leaders, they make their teammates better and they don't make many mistakes. Watch out for any team that has 2-3 really great guards, and can shoot the 3 well. They will most likely be the difference in a close game.
2. Pick teams that don't commit turnovers.
Teams that do well in the tournament simply don't make a habit of turning the ball over. Look at each team's average turnovers per game, and don't pick anyone that averages over 15 unless they are superior in nearly every other statistical category. The most successful tournament teams know how to take care of the ball for 40 minutes.
3. Can they shoot free throws?
There will be lots of close games in the tournament. With the exception of the Memphis team from last year, usually teams that do well must hit over 70% of their free throws on average. Be sure to double check each team's free throw shooting, along with the individual attempts and percentages for the biggest scorers. At some point it will be a factor, and your picks have to be able to hit clutch free throws when called upon.
4. What have they done lately?
Momentum is huge in college basketball, because so little separates each team. Research how each team has performed over the last 10 games. This is not always full-proof, but for me if I can't decide on a team it can come down to how they performed over the last 10 games. More times than not, teams on a roll of late will be more poised to make a run.
5. Experience matters.
Especially when picking an underdog, it's important to look at the team's overall experience in the tournament and in games played. Usually the cinderella teams have 4-5 really crucial seniors that make contributions to their team and provide great leadership. If a team is over-matched in every other statistical category, senior leadership could be the only thing that gives them a chance to get a win.
Lastly, keep in mind that any team can win any game on any given night. There is no dominant one team in college basketball. Don't be afraid to go with your gut and predict upsets that make sense. That's what makes this time of year the most exciting in sports.
Best of luck to you this year in dominating the office pool!