PORTLAND — Beware the Ides of March, for they foretell not only the death of Julius Caesar but also the coming of the annual NCAA basketball tournament office pool.

Elizabeth Fagan looks forward to it every year.

Fagan played basketball at Biddeford High School and used to journey with her mom, Cynthia Fagan, to first-round tournament venues as far away as Arizona and Indiana.

“My mom was very into college basketball,” Fagan said, “so it was something we did every year.”

Now an account executive with the Portland advertising agency VIA, Fagan and a co-worker started an office pool that in four years has grown from a dozen players to half the company.

“I think it brings a level of humor and fun and excitement,” Fagan said. “Every day, after the games, everybody’s looking for the e-mail for who’s in the lead and who’s off by how many points.”

Greg Smith, the agency’s chief creative officer, said he welcomes the annual competition, which is more about bragging rights than monetary rewards.

“You’ve got to trust your company’s culture,” he said. “We’re small enough that everybody knows one another and knows it’s all well-intentioned. And we’re big enough (with a staff of about 80) that you can win a couple hundred bucks, which is nice. But I wouldn’t say it’s for every office environment.”

Pekka Paavonpera, public relations director for Burgess Advertising in Portland, said his company runs a pool, and tries to think of creative ways to include clients.

Last year, that meant videotaping staff members’ predictions for who would win the tournament and sending them out as e-mail links to clients.

“We tend to use it as a fun thing, to get the clients involved with us in an off-work situation,” he said.

Maine’s professional basketball team, the Red Claws, invited all season ticket holders to join in a bracket challenge against the team’s players and staff members.

No money is involved, but there may be prizes.

“It’s more of a fun thing,” said Jana Spaulding, the Red Claws’ director of public and community relations. “See how you stack up against these guys who came from the NCAA world.”

Spaulding said the team will host a March Madness event from 2 to 7 p.m. Saturday at Asylum on Center Street, where fans can watch tournament games with Red Claws players.

The Portland Pirates play hockey, but they’re not immune to the pull of the college basketball tournament.

“Anytime there’s competition, the guys like to be involved in that,” said Cameron Cestaro, manager of corporate sales for Front Row Marketing and the NCAA pool manager for the Pirates.

“We had a game (Sunday) night, so we set it up afterwards. It’s easy to sign up, and everybody’s talking about it anyway,” Cestaro said.

Todd Jamison, who works in corporate sales for Front Row, is a four-time winner of the office pool run by the Portland Sea Dogs, for whom he formerly provided play-by-play radio commentary. Jamison said he regularly enters four or five pools.

“When I was in high school, my mom would actually let me take the Thursday and Friday (of opening-round games) off from school,” Jamison said. “It was like a family holiday.”

With family members from Kentucky, Jamison grew up a Wildcats fan. He remembers his father renting a videocassette recorder in 1984 to tape a Kentucky game that was broadcast at 11:30 p.m., so Jamison could watch it the next morning.

Jamison later attended college at Syracuse University and provided play-by-play for the student radio station in 1996, when the Orange reached the championship game against a Kentucky team led by Antoine Walker, a future Celtics star.

“So it’s something I look forward to every year,” Jamison said.

The Sea Dogs aren’t running a pool this year, after a run of 10 in a row. Jim Heffley, the team’s business manager who usually organizes such things, is simply too busy.

The NCAA championship game, scheduled for April 4, falls just three days before the Sea Dogs’ season opener.

“I can’t say I was overly disappointed,” said Geoff Iacuessa, the Sea Dogs’ general manager, who noted that his tendency to make incorrect upset picks sinks him every year. “We should be far more efficient in getting ready for the season.”

Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at: [email protected]