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READ BEFORE JUMPING INTO OFFICE POOL

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POSTED March 20, 2014 12:37 a.m.

Welcome to BracketRacket.

Think of it as one-stop shopping on game days for all your NCAA tournament needs. We’ll have interviews with celebrity alums drawn from sports, entertainment and politics, plus occasional “bracket-buster” picks, photos, news, gossip, stats, notes and quotes from around the tourney sites — all of it bundled into a quick read that gives diehard fans and office-poolers alike something to sound smart about.

So without further ado:

Take this job ... and dunk it

The business of America is business, and the NCAA tournament is bad for business; ergo, the NCAA tournament is bad for America.

The outplacement firm of Challenger, Gray & Christmas proved it by wasting a few hours again this year calculating how much U.S. employers could lose while employees (like this one, via wordpress.com: http://bit.ly/1fYuFac ) obsess over the tournament. In an annual report, the company set the figure at $1.2 billion for every unproductive hour.

“You have employees talking about which teams made or didn’t make the tournament. You have other workers setting up and managing office pools. Of course, there are the office pool participants,” Challenger’s statement cautioned, “some of whom might take five minutes to fill out a bracket, while others spend several hours researching teams, analyzing statistics and completing multiple brackets.”

Never mind that the math behind the estimate is fuzzy, or that both academic researchers and corporate managers who looked at the problem concluded the real numbers were considerably lower, mostly because employees tend to make up for lost time by working outside traditional hours.

So what should an employer do?

“Despite all of the scary numbers, Challenger suggests that employers not try to clamp down on March Madness,” the statement added. “Initiatives to block access to sports sites and live streaming in order to boost productivity in the short term, could result in long-term damage to employee morale, loyalty and engagement.”

Is this a great country or what?

Celebrity alum

Think the folks in Congress have trouble making up their minds now? Just wait. Nothing gets politicians procrastinatin’ and prevaricatin’ like the NCAA tournament.

Thirty-one states and the District of Columbia dispatched at least one representative into the 68-team field that began play Tuesday night. California topped the list with five, North Carolina, Ohio and Texas boasted four each, six others had three and Indiana — a.k.a, the “heartland of hoops” — had zero.

Generally speaking, elected officials from states with more than one entrant fear voters so much they’d rather talk about raising taxes than which school they’re backing. They make picking between them sound like “Sophie’s Choice.”

That made Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow thumbing her nose at the maize-and-blue recently seem refreshing.

“Oh, Michigan State! Michigan State,” she gushed during a groundbreaking ceremony at the university Monday.

“I have to tell you, after yesterday,” Stabenow added, referring to the Spartans’ win over state rival Michigan in the Big Ten championship game, “we are back. We’ve got the full team going, Coach (Tom) Izzo is primed and ready and I think we’ll take it all.”

Just to rub it in, she unveiled the little rhinestone number — courtesy of MSU Today alumni magazine — pictured here:  http://bit.ly/1eiqiFK

Stabenow received both her undergraduate and graduate (magna cum laude) degrees from Michigan State, so while she might need those Democratic votes over in Ann Arbor someday, it won’t be until 2018 at the earliest.

Even then, Stabenow barely cracks the “how-to-alienate-alumni” list. Since-retired North Carolina Sen. (and UNC alum) Brad Miller locked up the top spot in 2012 when he told BracketRacket: “I have said very publicly that if Duke was playing against the Taliban, then I’d have to pull for the Taliban.”

Don’t I know you from somewhere?

Speaking of “Sophie’s Choice,” a Pennsylvania high school coaching legend named John Miller could be facing one come early April.

That’s when Miller’s sons — Sean, who coaches No. 1 West seed Arizona; and younger brother Archie, who coaches No. 11th South seed Dayton — could meet in the Final Four. It’s a longshot, sure, especially since the Flyers only got off the bubble and into the bracket after winning nine of their last 10 games.

Then again, what were the odds that brothers from a tiny town in western Pennsylvania would wind up coaching in the same tournament? (Short answer: Who knows? The Beaver County (Pa.) Times said it was believed to be the first time that’s happened, but added such record-keeping at the NCAA was “sketchy.”)

“Sean, you kind of always figured he was going to be a coach. Archie always said he wasn’t going to coach,” John Miller, who won four state titles and more than 650 games before retiring from Blackhawk High in Beaver Falls, told the newspaper. “It was only three or four days after graduation, though, when we talked. He said, ‘All my contacts are in basketball, maybe I should try coaching.’”

After a number of stints as an assistant elsewhere, Archie’s best contact (and brother) came through with a two-year deal at Arizona.

“No question, being part of the tournament is going to be great for him,” Sean said.

John will be on hand Thursday in Buffalo, when Archie makes his NCAA tournament debut against Ohio State and coach Thad Matta, whom both Millers served under as assistants. But he’ll have to settle for watching Arizona’s opener Friday against Weber State in San Diego on TV. And even if both boys somehow get their teams to Arlington, Texas, on the tourney’s final weekend, John, who still coaches a youth team now and then, isn’t making any promises.

“This March Madness,” he fumed, “is getting in the way of basketball.”

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