March is officially here and arguably the best month of sports is about to begin. We’ve entered a time of college basketball where teams are gearing up for the post season and making their runs for their conference tournaments. When things get going, “madness” can barely describe how exciting games can get. Teams are hoping to earn quality wins to get a bid for the NCAA Tournament, so games are going down to the wire and players are laying it all on the line.
While the Big Dance gets all the press for the excitement and upsets, the conference tournaments have chances to give fans better games on any given day. The NCAA does mean that once a team loses, their season is officially over, but there aren’t many rivalry games in each round. We’re lucky if the brackets are nice enough to give us Michigan State and Michigan in the Elite Eight or Duke and North Carolina at some point in the tournament.
Conference tourneys, on the other hand, almost always guarantee tense rivalry match-ups. We’re not even at the ACC tournament yet and Syracuse and Virginia are treating us to one of the more exciting games of the season later today. The American Athletic Conference is going down to the wire with Louisville and Cincinnati both working to get the top seed in their tournament.
Even the middle of the pack teams give fans a chance to enjoy an exciting game. As a University of Illinois alumnus, there hasn’t been much to cheer for in the past few seasons — especially this year. What makes college basketball great is that even teams like the Illini still have a chance to make it to the NCAA tournament. Deep runs or even winning the conference tournament title could mean the difference between a lost season and a bid to the Dance.
What I love most about this time of year is how unpredictable the season becomes. Every season we see some mid-major do damage to big name teams and brackets alike. Last season gave us teams like Florida Gulf Coast showing off “Dunk City” as they soared to the Sweet Sixteen. Fans got a taste of Wichita State and what they can do. The Shockers have even managed to maintaine their excitement through this season by going through the regular season with an untarnished record.
Any one of 25 teams have legitimate shots at holding up the trophy at the end of the season. While some are more likely than others, there is a reason four number one seeds making it to the Final Four has only happened one time. Players are young in college. They go hot and cold more often than in the NBA, so it sets up games to be truly unpredictable.
All of these factors lead to one of the most exciting fantasy sport seasons during the year. It takes time to research teams, make educated guesses, and creating a bracket unique enough to separate yourself from the pack, while still sticking close enough to the chalk picks (highest seeds winning games) to get yourself some points. In the end, the biggest factor is luck. Some middle school kid who fills out a bracket for fun could have a chance to pick more wins than an ESPN analyst because that’s just how unpredictable games can be.
March is truly a maddening time for sports fans and betters alike. It sets people up for success and failure in a way that’s different from any other postseason. Even if we spend hours and hours looking up teams, researching players and match-ups, the winner of your tournament pick-em gets their money from being lucky enough to pick the Final Four teams.
We love every minute of it.