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Five simple rules for winning your March Madness pool

These five college basketball tips can help you get the upper hand in your March Madness betting when building your bracket this week.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The Michigan State Spartans are 13-1 straight up and 12-2 against the spread over their last 14 games according to the OddsShark College Basketball Database, helping the team earn a Big Ten championship and a two-seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Focusing on which teams are hot coming into the tournament is one of five simple rules to follow on your way to winning your March Madness pool.

1. Pay Attention to Current Form

It's obvious enough that the top seeds in the NCAA Tournament probably finished up their regular season and conference tournaments on a high note. But as you go down the bracket, teams have taken drastically different paths to get to this point.

Don't focus too hard on season records; instead, look closely at each team's last 5-10 games. Red-hot teams that enter the tournament with confidence are more likely to make noise than those coming in with doubts and multiple recent losses.

2. Use Betting Odds to Your Advantage

Not all upset picks are created equally. Plenty of people will randomly pick a few 12-seed over 5-seed upsets, but which are the most likely to actually happen? By studying college basketball betting lines, you can get an excellent idea of which favorites are the strongest and which are the most vulnerable in the first round.

3. Look For Unknown Stars

System teams with limited skill are unlikely to match up well against teams with superior athletes. But teams that run their offense through one or two star players can pull off major upsets when these stars catch fire on the right day. Check stats and box scores for some unsung heroes around the nation.

4. Cream Rises to the Top

Almost nothing is more satisfying in a March Madness pool than bragging about your sleeper team advancing to the Sweet 16 with a pair of big upsets. But winning the pool is even more satisfying, and you aren't likely to do it by sending a handful of underdogs into the Elite Eight. Focus energy on upsets and underdogs in the early rounds, but hang your hat on the strong teams to go deep.

5. Home Cooking

Some teams land close to home in their bracket placements, while others end up traveling across the country. This can affect both players and fan turnout. Factor game locations into your handicapping.