One of the most common complaints about an office pool is that it's always the person who knows nothing -- random guy in accounting, secretary, your boss -- that wins the NCAA Tournament pool.
At least that's the argument I always hear among my macho friends that like to pretend that because they watch a lot of college basketball, they know more than anyone else.
But I'm here to remedy this situation.
I've already put together a comprehensive preview of the NCAA Tournament, but perhaps that is too mainstream for your taste. So instead I've tried to think of all of the most unconventional bracket strategies available so that Jane in IT is finally stopped and you, Mr. Hardcore Basketball Fan, can finally reign supreme.
The Aussie Way
We consulted with our lovely IBTimesTV colleague Sally Turner, a native Australian , on who she likes best this year. Turner admittedly doesn't watch college basketball or know much about American sports in general, but that just means you should probably value her perspective more than others.
She said that she put together her bracket using a combination of picking schools that she recognized and some guesses.
I tried to pick schools based on familiarity -- like if I had seen them on sweaters, Turner said. If they are bigger schools, I presume they have better sports teams.
Some of Turner's first-round upset picks:
No. 13 New Mexico State over No. 4 Indiana
No. 14 South Dakota State over No. 3 Baylor
No. 13 Davidson over No. 4 Louisville
No. 14 BYU over No. 3 Marquette
No. 12 Harvard over No. 5 Vanderbilt
No. 13 Montana over No. 4 Wisconsin
No. 14 Belmont over No. 3 Georgetown
Turner picked Ohio State to win it all with Alabama, Duke, and Missouri making up the rest of her Final Four. Her rationale?
Ohio State: Sounds like a winner, sounds fun.
Duke: My favorite bar in Hawaii
Alabama: I've heard it referenced in movies a lot so I presume it's a big place.
Missouri: Sounds like a lot of fun.
The Best Uniform Strategy
Anyone can pick a team based on basketball prowess, but what about on how snazzy the team's uniform looks? For this strategy we consulted our fashion editor Cavan Sieczkowski to give us her thoughts on which of the field's 68 teams have the best uniforms. She narrowed it down to an Elite Eight and then broke down each game for us.
South: Baylor vs. Iowa State
Baylor's neon far outdid Iowa State's burgundy.
West: Marquette vs. Long Island University.
Marquette's vibrant yellow, is the reason they won.
East: Syracuse vs. Florida State
Syracuse's orange vs. Florida State's red was actually the hardest choice since both colors are not only vibrant but classically formatted with strong lettering. But Syracuse won in the end.
Midwest: North Carolina vs. Kansas
UNC beat Kansas because a powdery blue for spring time is a lot more inviting.
Sieczkowski has Baylor knocking off Iowa State and North Carolina defeating Syracuse - setting up the ultimate battle of old school vs. new school in the national championship.
It was really modern versus timeless. Powder blue and white is a really classic combination - often worn in the 1960s.
But ultimately it was Baylor's neon uniforms that showed off a really bold futuristic step that gave the Baylor Bears the fictional fashion championship.
Go with God Strategy
In my younger days I would run a March Madness pool each year with my family for fun. For the most part everyone went with a generic strategy, but my Aunt Carole always went with the Go with God strategy. She would typically take religiously based schools and bring them to her Final Four.
She saw some success in the early 2000s with the run of Gonzaga, but got burned more than a few times having St. Peter's make a run to the Final Four. For every Villanova and Georgetown, there is always that No. 15 Catholic school that she just couldn't pass up on.
In honor of one of my favorite relatives, we urge you to take a look at going with God.
This year's tournament has 14 teams with religious ties. Here are your options:
No. 3 Baylor (South Region)
No. 7 Notre Dame (South Region)
No. 10 Xavier (South Region)
No. 3 Marquette (West Region)
No. 9 Saint Louis (West Region)
No. 14 BYU (West Region)
No. 14 Iona (West Region)
No. 7 Gonzaga (East Region)
No. 14 St. Bonaventure (East Region)
No. 15 Loyola Md. (East Region)
No. 3 Georgetown (Midwest Region)
No. 7 Saint Mary's (Midwest Region)
No. 8 Creighton (Midwest Region)
No. 14 Belmont (Midwest Region)
Unfortunately there are a few roadblocks you run into in the Round of 64 -- Georgetown vs. Belmont and Notre Dame vs. Xavier -- but there are a few good options to pick from with this strategy.
One of my favorite ways to fill out a NCAA Tournament bracket is by imagining who would win if the two team's mascots got into a fight. Sure Ohio State is one of the best teams in the country behind star center Jared Sullinger, but does anyone think that wimpy Buckeye mascot could actually do any damage?
One of the most difficult things to factor in is how you view an animal vs. human battle. Would a Spartan be able to defeat a bear or a tiger? Personally I say yes, but you might think that a tiger or bear couldn't be defeated in a one-on-one battle against the other mascots. Your stance on that debate will likely have a huge impact on who ends up in your Final Four.
Going through with the mascot strategy, my Elite Eight was:
South Region: Iowa State Cyclones vs. Duke Blue Devils
West Region: Michigan State Spartans vs. Norfolk State Spartans
East Region: Montana Bears vs. Florida State Seminoles
Midwest Region: Michigan Wolverines vs. Detroit Titans
In my Final Four I had the Blue Devils, Spartans, Seminoles, and Titans. These might be highly debatable picks, but it's hard to really imagine any of these mascots going down early in the tournament. A Blue Devil going far is pretty self-explanatory; Spartans are some of the fiercest warriors in the world's history; the Seminoles are another well-trained, fierce bunch; and Titans were deities!
In the end it was hard to ignore that Titans were supernatural beings and thus pretty much incapable of losing in a mascot battle. The Detroit Titans proved to simply be too much for the Michigan State Spartans in my bracket, but I encourage you to look at it with your own criteria and fill out a bracket accordingly.
If none of these bracket strategies tickle your fancy, you could always pick your bracket based on the median income of graduates from those schools. That would mean that Harvard would be your champion, but you'd have Duke in your Final Four at least.
Are any of these strategies guaranteed to pay off in your office pool? Of course not, but what do you have to lose besides a little dignity? And a little lost dignity for the chance to look like an expert is easily worth it.