For college basketball players and fans there’s absolutely nothing like March Madness. March Madness routinely consumes office conversations everywhere, but beyond reviving college loyalties, might basketball actually offer some valuable business lessons?

Whether your bracket is already busted or you could care less about the whole endeavor, there are important insights and lessons your business can draw from basketball. In between the nail-biting wins and devastating losses, the intense competition can actually teach us a lot about human behavior and apply it to the business world.

So next time the boss complains about office productivity going down due to a game, tell her you’re doing more than just watching basketball. You’re doing research.

Lesson #1: Know Your Competition.

In order to get to the final four you have to know everything you can about the competition, maybe more than they know about themselves. At Michigan State, we didn’t run the same plays against Duke as we did against Kentucky or North Carolina because they all possessed different players and different strengths. It’s really the same thing in business, for instance, when your sales team is competing against another company. If the competition has similar pricing maybe you can beat them on service. It’s just as important to scout your competition in business as it is in basketball. No matter what the game, it’s much harder to win if you don’t know who you are playing against.

Lesson #2: Make People Feel They’re Behind. But Just By A Little.

You might expect that being ahead in competitions is a good thing. Sports teams that are ahead early win more than two-thirds of games. The further teams are ahead the more likely they are to win. NBA statistician Devin Pope analyzed over 18,000 NBA games and found a pretty surprising result. Teams that were losing by a point at halftime, were actually more likely to win than teams ahead by one point. Why? Being behind is motivating. Teams, and people, work harder when they’re losing by a little. LeBron James, for example, is 8% better when his team is down late in the game. Next time you want to motivate your team at work or push yourself to exercise harder at the gym, harness that psychology of motivation. Compare people to someone slightly ahead of them. Feeling slightly behind should increase motivation and ultimately performance.

Lesson #3: Rivalries Can Be Good… And Bad.

Rivalries are a big part of any sports environment. But rivalries are also prevalent at the office. Jim from Sales vs. Tim from Business Development. Your company vs. those other companies who say their product is better. Rivalries boost the motivation to perform, but that same motivation can have adverse effects. Rivalries have the potential to increase unsportsmanlike behavior. The same is true at the office. Rivalries make people work harder, but they also can drive people to behave unethically. So be wary of fanning rivalry’s flames. You may fire people up, but the blaze may soon be beyond your control.

Lesson #4: Run the Play That’s Called.

Another thing that breeds success in basketball is running the play that’s called. The coaches call the plays and the team is supposed to execute them. The top performers in a company are the team members who, when the play is called, have faith in their team and coach and then go out and run it. You can’t have a marketing team where three of the players think it’s a great pitch and the other two think it should be canned and run another way. You have to run the plays that are called together in order to achieve the goal.

Lesson #5: Be Wary of Success.

Once you were a tiny start-up, now you’re a mid-sized business. Once you were a distant third place, now you’re an industry leader. How does doing well affect behavior? Unfortunately, not all the news is good. In basketball, teams can shoot 3-point shots that are harder to make but worth more. But as a game gets closer, leading teams become risk averse. As companies grow or become industry leaders, you often see a similar pattern. Managers start playing it safe rather than shooting big. Everyone keeps doing what they are doing rather than rocking the boat. Success is good, but don’t let it stifle the pioneering spirit that got you there in the first place. Don’t get complacent. Keeping taking risks and trying new things. Great companies are always innovating.

Lesson #6: Practice, Practice, Practice.

Lastly, never overlook the importance of practice. Many games are won or lost long before tipoff. The teams that win in March do so because of all the work they did in October and November. Practice fosters success in any endeavor because it means preparing the right way. You (or your team) should never get on a sales call without knowing what you’re going to say or having practiced the pitch over and over so it comes out effortlessly.