I wonder how many of you are home “sick” today, getting some beer and wings to watch the first round of the NCAA Tournament (if you are, I deeply envy you), the best two days in sports all year. Why the best? Because it is the one sporting event where you honestly don’t have to care who the teams are- you learn more than you ever wanted to know about Wofford, San Diego State, and Murray State. You just want to see that #13 seed take down the #4, or see how many of the ubiquitous 12-5 upsets there are this season. You are either trying to start your bracket off strong, or just root for the teams you like. It is entirely different from the regular season, when you are jockeying for position- every game is life or death, and the players (for the most part) seem to play like it.
However, the excitement, wave of new teams and new information, and the drama of the tournament can lend it to some unhealthy habits, and I wanted to take a moment to help you check yourself to make sure you get the most out of March Madness. Here are some of my simple suggestions- you may not like them and you may not agree- to make this First Round weekend as fun as it can be for you and those you’re with.
1) Don’t take your bracket too seriously: For a while I stopped filling out brackets altogether because I became too married to seeing my teams advance and didn’t enjoy the upsets (or lack thereof) that can make the tournament so exciting. There is an amazing #14 vs. #3 game going on, and I see a guy next to me biting his nails because he had the #3 seed going to the Final Four. Rather than taking joy in the moment he got caught up in trying to win the pool or whatever he is doing. I suggest you put together your bracket and let it sit- it’s all a crap shoot anyway. Which leads me too…
2) Don’t be “The Stat Guy”: You know what I’m talking about. The guy who tries to break down every single matchup using a series of statistical tools that are only pulled out this time of year. I don’t care if the 7th man on Richmond’s rotation has 2.2 rebounds per game more than his counterpart on St. Mary’s, and I don’t think it will decide who wins. Not only is it annoying to others and stressful for you, but it doesn’t work. The person who wins is almost always that person who decides what mascot they like the best or goes by team name, or just goes with what feels right for them. Those people always seem to win the pool, and they also seem to follow rule #1 quite a bit better.
3) One bracket only, people: This one is more for me having to put up with multi-bracket people. I can’t stand that guy who says, “Yeah, I had New Mexico State over Michigan State and Sam Houston State over Baylor.” That might be true, but only because he has 7 different brackets with a host of different combinations. I don’t want to know what you had on “one of your brackets.” I’d love to make 2 brackets, each of which had the opposite result of the opening round matchups and say I called every one, but it doesn’t work that way. It’s like putting money on both teams in the Super Bowl- you either commit or you don’t. Besides, enjoy the upset, don’t worry about who called it.
4) There is always someone to root for: Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that Maryland, Morgan State, Georgetown (if you like DC) and any other teams you have a soft affinity for get knocked out in the first round (or second round). When in doubt, I try to switch my attention to, in this order, A) the lowest seed remaining, B) the mid-major conference teams that get no attention otherwise, and C) any other team I have never heard of or know nothing about. It adds an element of intrigue and keeps the Cinderella dream alive for some team out there- it’s not as good as your favorite team going deep in the tourney, but it’s not far off.
I hope these arbitrary guidelines help give you some direction as you attempt to get the most out of today and tomorrow’s NCAA action, and for the rest of the tournament. The organized chaos of March Madness is too good to get mired in anything else. Oh yea, and go Terps!
I have found myself to be that "Bracket Guy" with Fantasy Football. Last year was my first year playing and I found myself not really caring whether the Ravens won or lost but how well Ray Rice did (got him LATE in the draft, won't happen this year) and being pi$$Ed because MacGahee would plunge in from the one for a TD after Ray drove them down the field the rest of the way!
Most of the times I can't even remember who I took in the brackets, but like you, I root for the lower seed and figure that everyone else probably picked the higher seeded team too, so it'll all work out.
I really thought you'd have more on the"wings and beer" that you mentioned in the opening paragraphs when you discussed healthy habits. From what I understand, wings are like one of the worst things you can possibly eat! Too bad they taste so good…
It was exciting getting the calls from STG about trades and free agent pick ups in fantasy football. He's relaxed a little bit more during the tournament, but fantasy baseball should be fun.
I like the tips though Ex, I can picture people I know fitting all of your points in the list.
Consider me guilty of the "more than one bracket" rule. Usually I fill out several brackets and enter them all over the place. This year I only filled out one and entered it in my different pools. I stressed just as much filling it out as I had in the past, but once it was done, it was done.
I can enjoy the tournament and the upsets even as I'm living and dying with each game. I'm a fan of the game, so even if my bracket goes boom early on, I still enjoy the tournament. So much so, I splurge for the mega march madness package from DirecTV (shameless plug). I make sure to get those two days off to watch wall-to-wall hoops.
Murray State? Murray State? Are you kidding me?!?! My bracket's already blown up.
Oh, and thanks Notre Dame…thanks for laying an egg!
The Big Least is laying a collective egg right now. 'Nova dodged a bullet and the Hoyas as getting housed right now.
The BIG "Least" always disappoints in the Tourney…I kept hearing how much more dominant they were to the ACC. Right now, on Day one – they are set to go 1-2 with only #2 seeded Villanova squeaking by the mighty Robert Morris Colonials in OT 73-70.
I actually think the BE is a head better than the ACC. I mean Nova beat the terps pretty easily and the Hoyas killed Duke. Not sure how many other ACC/BE match-ups their were this year, but I still think the best of the BE is better than the best of the ACC. So far though they look rough.
JP…I can just tell you, I used to follow the BE pretty close and pick them in my brackets…I usually was very disappointed with the results. Just wouldn't surprise me to see them tank again this year, though I did pick WV to go to the Final 4, but I picked Duke as well.
And it's now official…Mighty Georgetown, the overrated #3 seed falls to 14 seed Ohio.
The disappointment continues…
My, my, my, the BIG Least results from day one…1 win versus 3 losses…
Can you say OVERRATED?!?! Almost half their tourney teams eliminated on day one. That's why I rarely pick Big East teams.
#2 Villanova vs. #15 Robert Morris – OT win by 3 points – WIN
#6 Notre Dame vs. #11 Old (don't call me King's) Dominion, LOSS
#3 Georgetown vs. #14 Ohio, LOSS
#6 seed Marquette vs. #11 Washington, LOSS
All much higher seeds for the BE, 1 – 3 record…why did I pick WV in the Final 4?
I have not filled out an official bracket in 9 years. I decided not to fill one out in 2002 because of a crazy superstition that the Terps would not pull through if I picked them to win it all. The Terps winning has freed me from the burden of being the guy who worries too much about his picks and does not enjoy the games. I have helped friends fill out their brackets, but I no longer partake in any ncaa pools.
Also, we need to get a new picture on the scroll at the top of the page for this article.
Although I have threatened to set my bracket on fire numerous times (and I haven't been wishing that I filled out two, three or ten more brackets to cover where I went wrong), I am enjoying the tournament. All in all, it's been a great day of hoops.
I'd be better off setting mine on fire. Thanks to the Big East for that.
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