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March Madness Office Pool Win!


It’s been a long time coming but the stars, a great borrowed formula, and faith in one of the great college coaches of all time have combined to produce a victory in the ol’ 30-person office pool.

First of all, I’m inordinately happy that I have an office to go to in the first place. I suppose one could crash the occasional office pool but it seems rude and just a little weird.

It was one of the best NCAA title games ever played. Butler is for real. Duke is an efficient team, equal parts brute force and smooth jumpers but the Bull Dogs hung in there with them every second of the game nearly nailing a desperation mid-court shot that truly would have been the greatest finish in the history of the sport.

Lessons learned:

♦  Take emotion out of the picks- everybody has their favorites, but sentimentality gets you nowhere. Because I work and live in DC, there are plenty of discarded bracket sheets that had lots of Georgetown’s and Maryland’s going far into the tourney.

♦  The early rounds do matter. You won’t win without taking some big games in the Elite-8 and Final Four rounds- but you have to have an edge in some of those early games. The formula I used pointed to six 1st round upsets and four of them came through. It also got me another upset in the 2nd round. In the end, that was precisely the margin that separated me from the runner-up.

♦  Find a winning formula! There were many out there to choose from in cyber-world; great sites created by true basketball and statistics geeks who know their stuff. I went with a system that was heavy on strength-of-schedule. There are so many match-ups in the tournament that would never happen in the regular season, that it seems factoring in the caliber of a team’s opponents is a pretty necessary ingredient.

♦ There are going to be upsets, but ultimately, it’s an established team in an established conference that’s going to go far or all the way. Most people thought Kansas was that team. I happened to think Duke was. I had the good fortune of watching them play in the ACC tournament and they had a real clutch quality about them.

♦  There’s still room for mysticism. One of the intriguing stats that I fell in love with was Duke’s national titles as a #1 seed. They won under such circumstances in 1992 and 2001. Now it’s nine years later again- and they did it. Note: watch out for Duke in 2019!

If you’ll forgive me, the pool’s commissioner is strangely silent this morning. Unless she has fled to Mexico, we have some business to conduct.

Hello, Mr. Lobster.  Hello, Mr. Porterhouse….

Duke or Bust

Usually, I write about things people will be interested in. Not so today. Remember how much promise and hope and optimism we all had in our cleverly crafted bracket sheets a couple of weeks ago? Remember March Madness?

A lot of things have happened along the way to the Final Four. Namely, Kansas. And Kentucky and Georgetown and Syracuse and Maryland. It’s been whacky. Though in 1st place in my office pool for the first two rounds, reality set in and dropped me as low as 16th out of 30. But I’ve headed back up to 12th and now 9th and I am currently the only one of the contenders who has picked Duke to win it all.

It’s all about the Blue Devils now. If they win the national championship, I will be cutting down my own, highly local little net.

For a lot of folks, the Duke Blue Devils are the New York Yankees. This is their 11th appearance in the Final Four under Coach Mike Krzyzewski. They’ve won three national titles, including back-to-back in 1991 and 1992. They were runner-up in 1990, 1994 and 1999.

But this is also their first Final Four in six years so a lot of folks think Coach K and the Blue Devils have lost a lot of their luster. They’re like the ’78 Yankees, back in the thick of it after a long dry spell.

I will admit there are times when I have hated Duke as intensely as any good Maryland fan should. But even when I was rooting against them, I have always held a grudging respect for Coach K. I think he’s a class act. So leaving the fate of my bracket in his hands is kind of like dealing with a Doctor you trust.

They may not survive a really, really good West Virginia team. Michigan State has been to 6 of the last 10 Final Fours and has a great pedigree too. But after all that’s happened over the past couple of weeks, I still have a rooting interest in March Madness, both for the game itself and the potential $200 in office pool money and all the lobster and steak it can buy.

For that, I have you to thank, Coach K. Good luck, buddy. Go Atlantic Coast Conference!