As of about 7 p.m. on Sunday, the field of 68 teams in the NCAA tournament was set, and March Madness was underway.

Cue the office pools, printable brackets, berserk predictions and friendly wagers.

If you’re a CPA, the “madness” likely began for you months ago. Busy season has been a grind, and as much as you’d prefer to spend your time penciling in bracket after bracket, there’s still much work to be done with more riding on it. More than that choice of whether to pick Saint Louis or VCU as your Cinderella team, or take Louisville all the way because of a 10-game winning streak. And what about IU, Butler, Notre Dame or Valpo?

But there’s always a little time to spare for brackets, right?

March Madness is one of the most popular sporting events in the world. And the beauty is – you don’t have to be a huge basketball fan or know much about the sport at all to be successful, have fun and even cut through a little bit of that busy season stress at the office. 

It’s last minute, I know. The main portion of the tournament begins tomorrow. Let me try to help save you time with practical tips I found for playing your office pool if you haven’t already turned in a bracket.

After all, my job at the Indiana CPA Society is to help enhance the professional success of members. And if you look at the fine print, that probably includes NCAA BRACKET success somewhere.

If this is still over-thinking it, you might try the ole’ “favorite jersey colors and mascots” method to make your picks.

From  “March Madness: office pools and how to win them”  by Jon Wilner of San Jose Mercury News, March 18, 2013.

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).

So who are your picks for the Final Four?