It’s only fitting that the deadline for filling out your NCAA Tournament bracket falls on St. Patrick’s Day this year.
You were probably scrambling to get those brackets done while pouring some Bailey’s Irish Cream over your coffee, pondering where you were going to get that glass of green beer or Guinness to commemorate the occasion. And you were hoping the Luck of the Irish would translate to your bracket, hoping to finally win that coveted office pool.
If you love basketball, March Madness is one of the best times of the year. In cold-weather states like Maine, it’s a sign that we’re finally saying goodbye to the darkness and gloom of winter and hello to the warmth of spring in spite of the fact the Black Bears have never appeared on a March Madness men’s bracket, and unlikely will be anytime soon.
Even those who don’t watch basketball regularly get into the Madness, and put pen, mouse or mobile device to brackets just like the diehards. That’s what makes it more fun. Yes, there are always those co-workers or the crazy aunt who penciled in a national champion purely because of the badassery of their mascot or the color of their uniforms, and basketball diehards try not to laugh when that nets them an office pool win.
All that being said, and my brackets were filled out long before this piece was written, here are the top reasons why March Madness is memorable to this hoops fan.
No matter how much time you stress out over your bracket, you have to remember there are always going to be upsets. In some cases, your national champion may be gone before the first weekend is all said and done. Your bracket may have more red on it than a Red Sox spring training jersey. But upsets make the tournament memorable, especially for the mid-majors who are usually given no chance to beat renowned superpowers.
One of my upset picks this year has America East champion Stony Brook beating Kentucky. It wouldn’t be the first time one of Maine’s America East rivals has shocked the world (see Vermont over Syracuse in 2005, and this scribe had the Orange in his Final Four that year). Jameel Warney, a three-time conference player of the year, will finally have his chance to shine on the big stage. Kentucky coach John Calipari was griping about his team getting such a low seed this week, so maybe the Seawolves can take advantage.
The competition on the court is fabulous and intense, but it can certainly get competitive among friends, family and co-workers. Remember, even though you may follow basketball religiously, your colleagues who rarely watch sports have just as much a chance to win as you do. That’s the nature of the beast. A lot of years, the sportswriters struggled to merely crack the top five in our office pool. If my 8-year-old niece fills out a bracket that’s better than any of mine, that’s the way the ball bounces. And maybe I’ll give her some Peanut Butter Cups for her efforts.
WILL THIS BE THE YEAR A 16 SEED BEATS A 1 SEED?
One of these years, one of those 16 seeds is bound to turn an office pool completely upside down. Will Austin Peay, Florida Gulf Coast, Holy Cross or Hampton pull that off this year? I’m thinking no. But funnier things have happened in this game. Take Holy Cross for example. The Crusaders finished near the bottom of the Patriot League but went into four other team’s buildings and won all four games before beating Southern in the First Four. It’s been quite a run for my editor’s alma mater, but Bob Cousy and Tom Heinsohn aren’t walking through that door.
LIVING AND DYING WITH YOUR FAVORITE TEAM
Yes, those of us who are diehards follow our favorite teams all the way through, regardless of where we penciled them in our brackets. In my case, that would be North Carolina. I’ve been a Tar Heel fan since the first grade, mainly because some guy named Michael Jordan played there and I spent a lot of time down there when I was growing up, thanks to my aunt living about an hour from Wilmington. Like most of my Tar Heel brethren, we’ll be supporting two teams: UNC, and whomever plays against that school in Durham. I doubt any Carolina fans have Duke going to Houston. Hell, I have them out in the first round!
Ohh, and my Final Four: North Carolina, Michigan State, Kansas, Oklahoma. Try and guess who my national champion is.