Getting ready for a month of March Madness

The national appeal of the NCAA Tournament is the complete opposite of the appeal of the Super Bowl.

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Many assume that the Super Bowl is the premier sporting event in the USA, but each year March Madness captures our attention and not just for four hours. Next Thursday, 64 of the top college basketball teams will square off in a three-week tournament with one motto: "Win or go home." The national appeal of the NCAA Tournament is the complete opposite of the appeal of the Super Bowl. The Super Bowl is the finale of the NFL season. To some sports fans college basketball simmers in January and February, then comes to a boil in March.

The first two days of the tournament start at lunchtime, there are four games going on almost simultaneously, all day. The TV commentators go from one game to another at a frantic pace. If Duke is pounding Binghamton, they will cut to North Dakota if they are giving the favoured Kansas a battle. It is intoxicating. Over the course of those first two days, all 64 teams will play. It is like a beautiful basketball sensory overload. Round two is played in the following two days. After just four days of play, 64 teams get whittled down to 16.

What we want on those first four days are upsets. Little teams from nowhere become legendary when they topple a giant. We never forget teams like Valparaiso taking down Mississippi in 1998 or Princeton shocking UCLA in 1996. To understand this you have to also understand the vernacular of the tournament. Sixty four teams are seeded in four brackets, 16 teams in each. The 16 teams are seeded with the best team getting a No 1 seed while the longshots are at No 16.

The power of the NCAA tournament can be seen in how the seeding terminology has become so common. Leading up to the tournament, is your school a 12-seed-a nine-seed? Which 15-seed will upset a two-seed this year? The regular season has become a quest to get the best seed you can. And for those 16-seeds, none have beaten a top seed. On our radio show it has become a way to describe how you are feeling. Having a great week: "I feel like a two-seed." Things are awful: "I'm a desperate 15-seed."

Now you are tournament ready, you must fill out a bracket. Everyone does it. My grandmother is filling out a bracket and she is 87! You take your bracket with all the teams and match-ups listed by region and make your picks. You have to pick a few upsets and a few favourites to make it to the final four, what you cannot do is use your heart while filling out your bracket. My Salukis of Southern Illinois University made the tournament three times when I was in school there. They usually went as a 12 or 13 seed, not favourite. I ignored logic and went with my heart. Love for my school forced my hand in putting them in the sweet 16 three times. I was wrong all three times. Here is the lesson, unless your child is the starting point guard for a 16-seed do not pick them to win.

The only thing as important to NCAA Tournament tradition as doing a bracket, is finding a way to get out of work to watch the games. This is tough, but I am a veteran of many battles. Luckily, now I work in sports and can use the "I have to watch all the games for work" with my wife, but that was not always the case. In high school there was no way to miss class, so I cut a hole in the pages of a textbook and inserted a three-inch TV with earpiece to see the games. When I got to the working world, I had to plan ahead to get the first two days of the tournament off. I would start coughing on Tuesday for my Thursday sick-out.

The Super Bowl owns one Sunday in January, but college basketball owns the entire month of March.