Before filling in your brackets, here are five tips for the office pool.
1. Follow the talent: Overachievers are easy to love, but they usually aren't standing in the end. Nine of the past 10 NCAA champions have had at least one NBA Lottery Pick on the roster. The exception was Duke in 2010, when the talent across the country was at historic lows.
2. Guards, guards guards: In the crucible of March (and April), every possession counts and every shot is contested. Guards who make sound decisions and create scoring chances when the offense stagnates are the most valuable commodity in the Madness.
3. Pick upsets early in the tournament. No. 9 seeds are 56-48 against No. 8s, while No. 12s topple No. 5s 33 percent of the time. The surprises don't end there. In four of the past five years, at least three teams seeded 10th or higher have reached the Sweet 16.
4. Pick Cinderellas at your peril: They're great stories, sure. But they're also aberrations. In the past two decades, only five teams seeded lower than No. 5 have reached the Final Four, and just three were from outside the power conferences: No. 11 George Mason in 2006 and No. 8 Butler and No. 11 Virginia Commonwealth in 2011.
5. The high seeds rule. Much as you might dislike picking favorites, they're the ticket to office bragging rights: In the past decade, No. 1 and 2 seeds have filled 60 percent of the spots at the Final Four. At the same time, don't pick all No. 1s to
advance to Atlanta. That's only happened once (2008).
For more on college sports, see Jon Wilner's College Hotline at blogs.mercurynews.com/collegesports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 408-920-5716. ___