ESPN Bracket champ tells you how to win your office pool

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Whether you've been watching every second of college basketball you could manage to get your eyes on, this season, or you're just banking on picking teams based on mascots or uniform colors or where your favorite cousin went to school for three semesters before dropping out to be a live-in nanny for a family in Seville, chances are you're going to fill out a March Madness tournament bracket at work. Because, really, nothing says workplace cohesiveness quite like a unified sports gambling experience.

Before you waste the rest of the afternoon studying Syracuse's 2-3 zone or Witchita State's tendencies in transition, take a second to learn from the best of last year's tournament challenge. Craig Gilmore—a 40-year-old business analyst from Virginia—took down ESPN's bracket showdown last year, only missing a dozen games and correctly selecting three Final Four teams, both squads that played in the National Championship, and (obviously) eventual champion Louisville.

Gilmore accredits his success to "going with his gut" and offered a bit of mild sarcasm while speaking with The Daily Beast about his bracket ritual for 2013.

Had you ever thought that winning ESPN’s Tournament Challenge was a possibility?

Not really. I’ve always kind of ended up in the 75 percentile, so far out of the running. The goal is just to beat all my friends. Once I hit the top 50 [on ESPN], that’s when people started sending me messages. It was mostly because of my entry name. So everyone’s like, “Dude I’m rooting for you. My bracket’s just totally blowing up, but that’s a funny name and I love it and I hate Notre Dame and I’m rooting for you.” So then I looked and I was like “Holy crap, I’m on the top 50 leaderboard.” Then I just started paying attention to me versus the rest of ESPN.

What’s your strategy?

You need to pick your four teams who you think can just get to the Final Four regardless. And then you just kind of go with trends. But it’s sort of like with everything in sports: If you overanalyze, you start to talk yourself out of things. And I use the SAT approach. I kinda go with that first gut feeling and then stick with it. I’ll make the pick, and that pick stays.

How do you keep emotion out of it?

I do pull for certain teams and I do hate certain teams, so when I pick them to either win or lose, I kind of step back and be like, “Why am I picking this team?” And I have to come up with something explainable versus if it’s just a hunch. Then that’s not good enough because I’m probably doing it because I want [Ohio State coach] Thad Matta to lose and cry. I think that’s the biggest problem that people have, that they start picking who they want to win versus who they think should win.

To learn more about Gilmore's strategy and 2014 favorites, check out the full Q&A over at The Daily Beast. Also, don't forget to enter the Warren Buffett/Quicken Loans/Yahoo! Billion Dollar Tournament Thingy because you'll hate yourself for not taking five minutes to try to guess your way to buying a private island/professional sports franchise. Also, be prepared to throw that bracket out as soon as NC State wins in the first round and blows it the hell up.