March Madness picks: Confessions of a 'bracketologist'
March Madness, the annual college hoops extravaganza, is upon us once again. For those interested observers, making their March Madness picks can be all consuming.
Every year in March, our nation is gripped by a sudden madness about basketball. A 'March Madness,' if you will. Many spouses, significant others, and bosses look at March and see countless unproductive hours ahead as hundreds of thousands of basketball fans turn to filling out brackets and watching gifted athletes pursue a dream.Skip to next paragraph
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There are those that would say precious time is being squandered, but to the nay-sayers, I say “nay!” Here are a couple insights into why we, the fans, spend months obsessing, cheering, planning, and tracking all in the hopes of predicting the NCAA men’s basketball champion.
Filling out a bracket is not an idle pursuit. Spouses, significant others or those with untrained eyes may interpret hours spent watching college basketball’s regular season and ESPN's 'SportsCenter' as a colossal waste of time, but it’s not. What’s actually happening during this seemingly wasted time? The honing of a bracketologist’s basketball acumen, of course.
In anticipation of 'Selection Sunday,' when the 68 teams are picked to participate in the NCAA tournament, you must stay up on the trends. It is good to note players who have sparked their team to surprising victories (UConn’s Kemba Walker and BYU’s Jimmer Fredette) or a team who is getting a star player back from injury. All of these factors play a role in filling out your bracket.
The joy of filling out a bracket, or even playing any form of fantasy sports, comes in that moment when you and the fates of sport have become one. There is a beauty in the moment when you can say to your cohorts, “I picked that team to win.” You feel like you were actually part of that victory.
Filling out a bracket enables the armchair warriors to not just watch the game, but to actively participate. It is more than just two hours of passively watching tremendously talented athletes perform feats of strength and prowess while eating “sports fuel” (i.e. nachos and hot wings) and coaching from the living room. The fantasy sports manager and the bracketologist have a vested interest in the outcome of each game and the performance of each player.
They may not be physically on the floor with those players, but they are willing them to victory. They feel the pain of every bad call by the ref and the elation when their team begins to dominate the opponent. You are not just rooting for your favorite team. When the field of 64 teams has been finalized and you have filled in your bracket; you start out the tournament rooting for 32 teams that you picked to win in the first round.
For the avid fan who loves to fill out a bracket, there are some critical guidelines that can help you choose your teams. Most of us go with either blind loyalty or cold realism. If you're an Atlantic Coast Conference fan, you could pick with your heart and choose Duke, North Carolina and Florida State to fill three of the slots in the Final Four. But this would be ill-advised since Florida State is in a very difficult bracket.