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    The men’s NCAA Tournament begins this week, which means corporations across the country will see a drop in production (as well as a rise in sick days), as their employees focus on something more important - winning their office pool.

    But before you begin asking your 3-year-old, or pet, to make your picks, here are a handful of helpful hints to winning your work’s NCAA office pool this year.


    #1. Don’t pick Kentucky to be the national champion.

    Let’s face it everybody and their brother, sister, kid, neighbor and imaginary friend is picking the Wildcats to win it all this year, and rightfully so, they may be the best college basketball team in almost 40 years. But unless you think that you can pick more games correctly than the guy in your office who looks like Joe Lunardi, then you need to take a chance and pick someone other than UK to cut down the nets in Indianapolis.

    Instead, go with Duke (no Kentucky fan in his, or her, right mind would do that), Wisconsin, Arizona, Virginia or Villanova (in that order). Or, if you’re really feeling adventurous, roll with Notre Dame, North Carolina, Iowa State or Gonzaga.


    #2. Pick at least one No. 2 seed and one No. 3 seed to lose before the Round of 16.

    In each of the last five tourneys at least one No. 2 seed and one No. 3 seed has been eliminated in the first four days.

    Kansas is your best choice as the No. 2 seed to make an early exit. The Jayhawks are limping into the tourney (leading scorer and rebounder Perry Ellis missed two recent games with a knee injury), they have a history of early flameouts and they potentially face a very difficult game against under-seeded Wichita State (sorry IU fans) in the third round. Second choice: Arizona (which could face Louisville native D’Angelo Russell and Ohio State in the third round).

    The most susceptible No. 3 seed is probably Baylor (sensing a Big 12 theme here?). The Bears have a tough second-round game against Georgia State (which features UK transfer Ryan Harrow and University of Louisville transfer Kevin Ware) and if they win they could have an even harder time in the third round against the Xavier-Mississippi winner. Second choice: Oklahoma (sensing a Big 12 theme again?).


    #3. Put one of the “First Four” winners in the Sweet 16.

    Since the inception of the “First Four” (the four first-round games on Tuesday and Wednesday) in 2011, three “First Four” winners have advanced to the Sweet 16 (including Tennessee last year) and one (VCU in 2011) made it all the way to the Final Four. Mississippi, with its huge comeback against BYU, was the most impressive of the “First Four” winners and could very easily carry that momentum over to its second-round game against Xavier and potential third-round matchup against Baylor (see above). Second choice: Dayton (the Flyers, who rallied to beat Boise State on their homecourt Wednesday night, now move on to play in Columbus, Ohio).


    #4. Pick one No. 5 seed, or higher, to make the Elite 8.

    Over the last five tournaments there have been 11 teams that were seeded fifth, or higher, to advance to the regional championship games, including a No. 7 (Connecticut), No. 8 (Kentucky) and No. 11 (Dayton) last year.

    The best bet this year is Northern Iowa, the No. 5 seed in the East Region. The Panthers are 30-3 this season and they’re not very far off being the second undefeated team in this tourney. Their only losses were a double-overtime defeat at VCU, a three-point loss at Evansville and a loss at Wichita State, which entered last year’s Big Dance unblemished before losing to Kentucky. Second choice: Wichita State.


    #5. Pick a big upset in the second round.

    In the last five tourneys, 10 top four seeds (Nos. 1-4) didn’t survive their first games (including three each in 2013 and 2012).

    This year’s pick is Eastern Washington, the No. 13 seed in the South Region, over No. 4 seed Georgetown. Second choice: Georgia State over Baylor.


    There you have it, five quick tips to winning your NCAA office pool. If you win we get 50 percent of your winnings. If you don’t, don’t blame us.


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