The humming of the Xerox machine in your office has a bit of a different tone to it in mid March. The anticipation around the buzzing machine increases as NCAA Tournament brackets are spewed out of the printer and piled on top of each other like a newspaper fresh off the press. The brackets are then passed around the office to be filled out before being entered into the office pool.

Anyone who works or goes to school knows the process and every year, after reviewing each team’s RPI and listening to what the experts have to say on ESPN, our pens ink the teams that will be victorious and ultimately win us the jackpot. Unfortunately, at least in my experience, that jackpot usually goes to the person who chose the winners of each game based on which mascot sounds the meanest or which team adorns the prettiest color scheme.

This season has been no different. In the two pools I’m in this season, the brightest sports minds involved are at the mercy of those who flip a coin in order to decide the winner. In order to avoid the frustration of losing every season, might I offer some suggestions?

Forget the big upset. I’d like to know how many people honestly picked George Mason to advance to the Final Four in 2006. While every couple of years Cinderella dons the glass slippers on during the tournament, it’s safer to stick with teams from the power conferences.

Which leads into my next suggestion: In a tossup, go with the team from the better conference. With the exception of a few minor upsets, the team from the better conference usually comes out on top. The Big East Conference sent five teams to the Sweet Sixteen while only two teams, Xavier and Gonzaga, survived the first weekend of madness from non-BCS conferences.

While these pointers aren’t guaranteed to send you home with the big prize, they should keep you in the running down to final weekend in March. Still, in a tournament as unpredictable as this, there are no guarantees for the teams involved or the millions who participate from their living rooms.