Most sports fans recognize March as the most entertaining time of the year. The NBA is in full swing, the baseball season is about to begin, most of us are still talking about the Super Bowl, and the NFL draft is right around the corner. But more importantly, March brings what can be argued as the purest form of competition today: the NCAA tournament! No BCS, just a single-elimination, gut-wrenching basketball tournament, buzzer-beaters and heartbreakers, first to six games wins. All others go home with only promises of next year.
Tens of millions of Americans enter basketball pools annually with the hopes of accurately predicting the most games. However, you are more likely to win the lottery than you are to correctly guess every winner. That doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t effectively run a pool and have tons of fun in the meantime.
What follows is how to run a successful basketball pool. This assumes you can’t fly to Las Vegas for the first weekend and parlay as many underdogs money line as possible…
1 – Abandon all responsibility for three weeks. Running a pool with even 20-30 entries requires time and effort. If you have classes, blow them off, particularly on the first Thursday and Friday of the tournament. It is on these two days where most of the games are played. Nobody in their right mind can be expected to work under these conditions. You will be glued to your television set and all other obligations should understand that. Ensure you have enough food and beverage for that first weekend. There will be limited time for anything other than analyzing basketball match-ups and kicking yourself for not picking that first-round 4-13 upset.
2 – Brackets are announced on Sunday evening. Games begin at noon that following Thursday. Immediately surf the internet for a clean bracket to print and distribute. This will be your template. Remember, you’ll want to choose one with pertinent information only, i.e., school names, team records & venues. Graphics that clutter the form are unnecessary.
3 – Establish rules and point values, being careful not to put in writing any reference to prize money. Sure, it’s March Madness but there’s no reason to be sent to prison. Award points geometrically per round or allot more for picking an upset. Ultimately, it’s up to you.
4 – Clear off a wall in your living room and design a life-size bracket for all to see. Those in the pool need to know you’re serious about your commitment. After all, your home will become bracket central for three weeks. Your wife or girlfriend might not appreciate this, but roommates should understand. If not, it’s time to find new ones.
5 – Ensure all entries are collected by tip-off Thursday.
6 – Participants will likely have made a copy of their own selections. A successful pool manager should distribute pool-wide picks, then update them throughout the tourney. This makes it much more fun for those participating. Just be sure you’ve done so accurately. The last thing you want is for someone to find flaws in your masterpiece.
7 – Prize money should be distributed according to pool size. If you’re hardcore, you can establish a winner-take-all payout, but it’s more enjoyable if most participants think they have a shot to finish in the money. It’s tradition for the last place finisher to receive his money back, then be publicly ridiculed.
8 – Remember, this is all in fun. You are about to dedicate the next three weeks of your life watching college athletes give their all for the chance to be etched in history. Enjoy it.