This Sunday may be one of the most epic in recent memory, with a trifecta of awesome events scheduled. First, it’s real St. Patrick’s Day. Then, it’s the 51st annual Montauk St. Patrick’s Day Parade. And finally, sports enthusiasts rejoice: It’s Selection Sunday, the beginning of March Madness.
Simply because of our geographical distance from a solid Division I college basketball program, the East End isn’t exactly a hotbed of Madness. But odds are, you’re going to fill out a bracket anyway. The NCAA changed the rules a bit in 2011 to allow for more teams to make the Big Dance, with two key confusing aspects.
For years, the “first round” referenced games among 64 teams, seeded 1–16 in four regional brackets. Now it refers to four games in which eight teams play for four spots in the aforementioned top 64.
Old habits die hard, and for the past two years, everyone I know has still referred to the Round of 64—now technically the second round—as the “First Round.” But this new “first round” delves further into irrational territory, as the seeded slots they’re playing for just make no sense. Last year, the winners became No. 16, No. 16, No. 14 and No. 12. Why?
At least the most fun part of naming rounds remains—the fun alliterations: “Sweet Sixteen,” “Elite Eight” and “Final Four.”
For the past couple of years, I’ve filled out a bracket with a group of friends from Wake Forest. So, what’s the method to the madness? In theory, the highest ranked teams go all the way, but in actuality that never even comes close to happening. Everyone—from true NCAA basketball “bracketologists” to the person reluctantly roped into an office pool—has a chance of choosing every correct team. Here’s how I go about the monumental task:
•If Wake Forest makes the dance, they automatically go all the way. I can’t not put my Demon Deacons at the top. And really, anything goes in the NCAA tournament. Upsets are what make watching so fun. (This didn’t go so well back in 2009. Wake was a No. 4 seed, and we lost to No. 13 Cleveland State in the first round. Prior to the start of the tournament, I made my roommate feel so bad about picking a different team to become a national champion that she changed her bracket. She shouldn’t have listened to me…)
•I never have all No. 1 seeds in the Final Four. It’s just so unlikely to happen. Plus, if that No. 8 guy goes all the way, I want to be able to say that I correctly predicted it. Even though it’s a complete fluke, it gives you some kind of credibility.
•I usually go on gut. I’ll be the first to admit that there’s no way I know even one thing about every team that makes it to the tournament. Sometimes a quick Google search will help me decide. Other times, I pick based on which team’s uniform I like better. Those that incorporate a blue-and-orange (because I like the Mets) or a black-and-gold (for Wake) color scheme usually trump all others.
•I knock Duke out as soon as humanly possible. Like a good Demon Deacon, I’m against everything Blue Devil. As soon as they’re matched up against a team that has even a remote chance of winning, they’re out.
•That mentality slightly conflicts with this one: I keep ACC teams in as long as possible. This year, I think the tourney is going to be stacked with the ACC, minus (sadly) Wake. But it’s nice to be thought of as a dominant basketball conference again. So, I’m always debating: Do I leave Duke in for the sake of the ACC? Or do Tobacco Road rivalies die hard? It will be a constant source of angst this week.
Let the madness begin.