Talented Pool Excites Fans as March Madness Sweeps Nation
To paraphrase legendary record producer Bruce Dickinson, “Guess what? I got a madness, and the only prescription is more college basketball.”
That’s right, March has returned. And this year, it may be the maddest it has been yet. I say this because I cannot remember a year when there were so many teams with the talent to win the National Collegiate Athletic Association Men’s Basketball Championship.
If someone just got out of a Delorean and told me Ohio State, UCLA, Texas, Kansas, Wisconsin, Georgetown, University of North Carolina or last year’s champions, Florida, will be cutting down the nets this year, I’d believe them.
Hopefully, Texas or Ohio State will stand on a ladder below the net and snip it off the rim. Every college basketball fan, nay, sports fan in general, should pray for a match-up of Kevin Durant and Greg Oden, two of the nation’s top players, and they are only freshmen.
But then again, if another team comes out of nowhere and wins six in a row to win it all, I wouldn’t be all that surprised either. The amount of upsets that occur year after year, in fact, is what makes this tournament so popular.
When teams need just one win to advance or be eliminated, anyone can advance in any given game. Teams who on paper are the best in the tournament can lose to teams that only qualified for the “Big Dance” because they won a conference that no one notices all season long.
Don’t believe me? Just look at last season for the University of Connecticut. They easily had the most talented team in the country at the time, yet lost to Colonial Athletic Association champion George Mason, a #14 seed and national favorite that made it to the final four.
UConn had four players taken in the first round of the National Basketball Association draft after the season ended, while George Mason has never even produced a player who played more than 24 games in the league.
Sure, raw talent helps, but it isn’t everything. George Mason beat UConn the same way that countless other underdogs upset their opponents: Play your heart out, and you will be rewarded.
Cinderella teams like George Mason come every year and captivate the nation. Be it because of their determination, the never-say-die effort or the fact that people just love an underdog, legions of fans find themselves rooting for those low-ranked teams to keep on winning.
Just so long as it doesn’t come at the expense of their bracket.
That is the other reason March Madness is so popular: pools. Every year, countless people fill out a bracket to be entered into a pool. While winning a pool you are entered in gives you bragging rights until next March, there is usually a bit of money to be gained, too.
Most pools are entered into by way of paying some entry fee, and the winner usually takes most, if not all, of the money entered into the pool. Even in the free pools on www.ESPN.com where anyone can enter up to five brackets for free, the worldwide winner makes a cool $10,000.
With bragging rights and cash to be won, plus the pure excitement of college basketball and all the upsets, what’s not to love?
Oh, right, the frustration that comes when your bracket completely falls apart. That’s the price everyone pays for filling out a bracket in a tournament with so much uncertainty.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve rooted against a team I only mildly liked because I either picked them to be upset or because it will completely bust someone’s bracket. Also, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve rooted for a team I despise to come back from a deficit so that my bracket doesn’t get busted.
Inevitably, though, everyone’s bracket gets busted. There is just no order to who will win any game. Since the selection committee started seeding teams in 1979, only thrice has the championship game featured two #1 seeds.
There also has never been a year when all four #1 seeds made the Final Four. In eight of the tournaments since 1990, at least one #1 seed was eliminated in the first weekend. The top teams don’t always advance, and that is the glory that is March Madness.
The most common place for a first round upset (relative to the difference in seeding) is in the 5-12 game. In every season since 1984, when the field expanded to 64 teams, there has been at least one 12 seed upsetting a five, and the 12 seeds have won one of every three games in the first round match up.
So with so much uncertainty, how can anyone be expected to fill out a successful bracket? Well, you can’t really, and that’s what makes the tournament so fun.
People get frustrated when their bracket is busted, but then they are free to simply enjoy the beauty that is March Madness. The buzzer beaters, the Cinderella stories, playing simply for the love of the game and Dick Vitale yelling at everything leaves fans in a trance that only the NCAA Tournament can produce.
It’s March, ladies and gentlemen. Let’s all sit back, skip any Thursday or Friday afternoon classes, watch 12 hours of basketball a day and fully embrace the insanity that is college basketball.