NCAA basketball: let the Madness commence!

By Charlie Stanton

Let me drop some facts on you, Macalester College: The NCAA men’s basketball tournament is the best sporting event in the world. Like I said, facts. Yes, the World Series might send chills down your spine, the World Cup truly appeals to a global audience, and whatever sport you like probably makes you very happy. However! The NCAA tournament is the greatest sporting event on the planet because it is the only one that forces David to face Goliath multiple times over a span of a month. Cheesy? Of course. “It is the only time when a school of 3,000 can beat a school of 60,000.” Yes, that came from a Dove Men’s Care commercial. On Thursday or Friday (depending on the tournament schedule), Harvard University will play in its first NCAA tournament game since 1946. They will play a school that offers athletic scholarships to its basketball players. Harvard does not offer athletic scholarships. I will be rooting for Harvard.The Duke Blue Devils are another team that will be in the NCAA tournament. Has there been a college basketball team so loved and simultaneously so hated by so many people? No, there has not. I will not be rooting for Duke.The Michigan Wolverines come seeking success with a rebuilt program led by an upstart freshman point guard named Trey Burke. The Syracuse Orange usually plays 10 players in any given game. The hero changes from game to game. Kentucky has three of the best freshmen in the country and they are usually on the floor at the same time. The Macalester College Scots…oh wait, Division III. The point is that each of the 68 teams has a storyline and each has a chance to etch their legacy in tournament lore. Let’s be real though, ten teams probably have a shot at winning the whole shebang. That doesn’t mean that there won’t be incredible upsets leading up to the Final Four. Only in the NCAA tournament can a basketball player from Virginia Commonwealth University walk up to a player on Michigan State University and say, “My team just beat your ass and your school spends twice as much on basketball. Go back to East Lansing.” That’s all hypothetical, but not out of the realm of possibility. The point is this: We love the NCAA tournament because anything can happen. This was my original reason for loving the NCAA tournament. The first and second rounds of the tournament are from Thursday to Sunday. This is when all of the true underdogs play the big boys. Schools like Creighton, Long Beach State, Murray State and Harvard will all try to play Cinderella this year. The last two years the Butler Bulldogs have made the Final Four. In 2010, they were a six seed and last year they had an eight seed. Last year, Virginia Commonwealth made the Final Four as an 11 seed. When you fill out your bracket don’t be afraid to put confidence in the lower seeds. Over the next few days, you will hear a lot about “brackets.” For all of you basketball novices, a bracket is what the tournament looks like on paper. It has all of the first round matchups and it leaves the rest up to you. You are supposed to fill out the rest. The magical part about the bracket is that you don’t need to know very much about college basketball to be successful in predicting the tournament. There are also people like me who devote hours to this pathetic piece of paper. There are four regions on the bracket and each team in a region is seeded from one to 16. The higher the seed, the better that team played during the regular season. Millions of dollars are taken in by Las Vegas casinos every March because thousands of sorry souls bet that their bracket predictions are the right ones. There are fears, tears and cheers, but people still lose money. When you fill out a bracket, you need to know who can actually win the whole tournament. This season, if Kentucky, Syracuse, North Carolina, Kansas, Missouri, Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan or Marquette is not your national champion, then you are messing up and should probably reconsider. This whole bracket process can be a very profitable endeavor if you simply choose the right team to win it all. More points are rewarded in the later rounds. At the heart of bracketeering, there is also a fundamental philosophical problem. “How far should I have my favorite team go?” Rule #435 of filling out a bracket: Be realistic. Being a fan of Weber State does not mean you should pick them to beat Missouri in the first round. If you choose to put your hard earned money on the table for the NCAA tournament, you should be smart about it. This year, picking Kentucky will be the popular and smart move to make. They are the definite favorites heading into the tournament. However! Be aware of all the other people out there who will also be picking Kentucky. If you all pick the same winner, then you need to be confident in your early round picks. This year, the trendy picks will be Missouri and Michigan State. Both are very good teams and picking them to win the Big Dance will separate you from the competition. Keep that in mind. These are the questions that keep me up at night. It is also useful to examine the conferences. The Big Ten and Big 12 are the best conferences in the country this year. Don’t be shy about picking those teams to go far. The Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) is pretty bad so stay away from the ACC teams going deep (other than North Carolina…and Duke, I guess). The tournament field will be unveiled on Sunday. I’m offering up my services as a personal bracket consultant, free of charge. It’s the best time of year, enjoy it. Let the Madness commence! refresh –>