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For This Year’s March Madness Office Pool, Consider Building Your Bracket On Mascots

Don Yaeger

03/02/22| Athletes/Sports


For This Year’s March Madness Office Pool, Consider Building Your Bracket On Mascots

America loves college basketball, especially in the spring when tournament time makes for some of the best passion and play on the planet. American businesses also love that annual rite of spring known as the March Madness Office Pool. In the coming days, somebody from your office will send around an email asking people to fill out your bracket and pick a national champion.

First, do sign up and encourage your team to participate even if they think Coach K is a breakfast cereal. In these virtual times, our office cultures need the kind of connections offered by the pool. If you’re like many people, you have missed the intra-office trash-talking that makes this time of year so much fun. Every office in America has somebody who can lead the charge. Maybe you ought to do it this year?

Second, forget about what all the smart money and data crunchers are saying about structuring your bracket. They’re so knee-deep in statistics and all that; where’s the fun? Besides, this weekend, the smart money stat people were wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, and, oh yes, WRONG.

Last weekend marked the first time since the discovery of the office water bubbler that the top six college basketball teams all lost their games, some to other good but not as highly ranked teams.

This isn’t the place for a game-by-game recap of the weekend. This is the place. And maybe here, too. No, this space is to reflect on the meaning of this historic weekend. First, the results show a healthy level of competition and, if not parity such as we see in professional sports where the teams with the worst records get to draft ahead of the more successful teams, at least a signal that everybody has a chance.

And as it is in college hoops, so it is in the life of a corporation. Having a chance is all we can really ask for in the end.

In addition, these playoffs are giving some of the “older” teams—a term of great relativity if ever there was one—a chance to go deep and share some deserved limelight with those loaded with one-and-done players. Plus, the results guarantee that March Madness lives up to its name and makes college hoops a must-see competition for many weeks to come. Finally, everybody loves an underdog and getting to know a school that was formerly an outlier; this tournament offers the hope that we’ll all get to see some less than familiar faces on the screens. After all, it wasn’t that long ago that the Gonzaga Bulldogs, now a perennial power, were a fresh and welcome new face on the collegiate basketball scene.

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In other words, in this year of chaos, we may have to come up with some new criteria to use to win those office pools. What about looking more closely at the mascots and building your bracket around them?

Here’s are two interrelated ideas for how you might guide your team in such a bracket.

Who would win in a fight?

Kansas has a worthy tradition of basketball excellence, but here you have to consider just how well “Baby Jay” Jayhawk would fare against other, perhaps nobler, birds taking flight. For years the Wildcats of Kentucky trolled the hoops woods in search of smaller prey. However, this year the savvy bracketeer might want to go with the new cat in town, name of Aubie the Tiger.

Differentiation is important in business, a point that seems worth noting when it comes to the great numbers of wildcat mascots, which every university seems bent on proving originated on its campus. The University of Arizona, though ranked second, will be led onto the court by Wilbur Wildcat. How do you think such a feline would stack up in a fight? Ditto for Villanova’s Will D. Cat.

There is always Bucky Badger (Wisconsin). Pound for pound, a badger is tougher than most animals, according to Wikipedia. But a tiger? Or a bear? Baylor University, last year’s champs, have a great coach in Scott Drew and an even better mascot in Bruiser the Bear. They have to be considered serious challengers—even over Spike the Bulldog at top-seeded Gonzaga.

What’s in a name?

Like a good brand, your mascot should evoke emotion and instant connectivity. By this criterion, the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame would be highly backable…if only they make the tournament. Of course, the Friars of Providence College, bless them, could make a sudden move from the eleventh spot to a more…exalted finish.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if the Friars had to play the Blue Devils of Duke? In this, legendary Coach K’s final season at the helm, the Devils can be expected to make things hot as heck for other teams as Duke prepares its succession strategy for Coach K’s next-in-line Jon Scheyer.

On the observe side, there is the Raider Red of Texas Tech University, if only it could be determined whether he is supposed to be Yosemite Sam’s crazy little brother or the Cookie Monster’s wildly eccentric uncle. What is Raider Red’s “why?”

These criteria offer two of many possibilities for you in crafting your own winning bracket this spring. Encourage creativity with your team. You might even separate out mascots as a separate category to allow the sports nerds to stick to the script. Publish the best rationales in your company blog.

This culture boost might just be the easiest leadership layup you make this year.