How I Pick Winners in March Madness

My record the last few years in picking early-round games in March Madness is pretty mediocre. When I pick a big upset I often get it wrong.

My record over the later rounds — picking the winner of the whole tournament, and winning the entire pool I’m in — is actually pretty good, if I must say so myself.

My friend Jerry just asked me how I pick winners. In describing it to him on the phone, I felt like I was writing an article for a recruiting publication. 

Here’s what I do: I try to pick the team with the most talent. This may sound simple, but it’s not what many people do.

They pick the hottest teams. The one with the most experience. The best coaches. The best mix of players. The ones playing closer to home. The healthiest. The deepest (the teams with the best benches). They look for the ones that match up best with a competitor (in other words, an inferior club that plays well or is expected to play well against a certain opponent).

Anyhow, that’s often how I pick — talent. It seems to work. 

In hiring, it’s not such a bad plan either. I’m not saying that in human resources — in business — these other factors I mentioned above aren’t important: the mix of people on a team; the strength of a manager; a person’s experience; and so on.

But in the end, it’s talent. 

Of course, in basketball and in hiring, we all define talent differently (one definition I’ve heard is ability plus desire). In basketball, to figure out the most talented I look at what others are saying about a team’s talent — such as how many future NBA’ers are on the team.

Of course, talent is a vague and subjective term in hiring, too.

But it beats some of the alternatives, including just picking the winner based on a whim or an instinct. I admittedly do a little of that too. Sometimes that works for me, and sometimes it does not. Making decisions based on little information, a whim, an instinct — a favorite team name or uniform — it may sound silly, but we all know a few whims and instincts have been used to make hiring decisions too.

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