Here it is. The mythical month of March.
The month where, all of a sudden, you need to know how well Virginia Commonwealth’s Havoc defense will go against a high-paced offense.
It is the month where, before the “second round” starts, you must strategically plan which games to stream on your laptop and or tablet and which one to put on TV. Or which booth at the bar will provide you with optimal game viewing opportunities.
It is the time of year where my childhood home is so spotless you could eat gum that fell under the couch. Because the only way my mother knows how to handle nervousness over MSU basketball is to start cleaning.
Any college basketball fan will tell you that the NCAA Tournament is everything that is right with sports. Non-stop action for three weeks with the ever present possibility of an earth-shattering upset that makes you question why you ever even liked sports.
Now this article is not for me to make all of my impossible predictions. I still have to sit down and think about those before I inevitably get them all wrong. This is an opportunity to remind you of why we love the Tourney and the proper way to enjoy it.
Stop It with Your Bracket
Nobody cares what combination of teams need to lose in order for your Final Four to remain intact. Nobody cares that you “TOTALLY CALLED THAT 5-12 UPSET” because we all know the guy who was wondering if Syracuse is a good Final Four pick is going to win the bracket pool anyway. Just sit there and enjoy the games because while it is marginally impressive that you called that upset, I probably picked all 12 seeds so that I could get one right and yell that I totally called it. So keep it down about your picks. Unless it is the Final Four and you are two wins away from rolling in Warren Buffett’s billion. Then you can go as nuts as you want.
Do NOT Call the Opening round the First Round
It is not the first round. Call it the play-in round. Call it the preliminary round. Call it the round before people start watching. Yes it is officially called the “first round.” I don’t care. Just do not call it the first round because the first round indicates being glued to a screen or screens for 10 hours straight trying to figure out why the hell you made the picks you made.
Watch Your Coach
It is no accident that I have never seen a, “January, February, Bo Ryan” t-shirt. The tournament separates good coaches from great coaches. It shows who can make in-game adjustments and quickly get a team ready for a usually unknown opponent. Rarely, teams are exposed as being less talented than we thought. Usually, a coach is the reason for a team failing in the tournament. So watch your coach this year. It will tell you all you need to know about your team’s chances in future years.
Find Your Underdog Early
At one point last year the words, “I almost hope Florida Gulf Coast wins more than MSU” left my mouth. Underdogs are what make the tournament. The sooner you go all-in on one the more awesome the experience will be. God forbid your team gets upset early, at least you will have this Cinderella to keep your near extinct hopes alive.
This Is It
We do not get anymore college basketball for another six months after April 7. No more buzzer beaters. No more weird, head-scratching upsets. It’s all NBA and MLB. Not that there is anything wrong with the NBA or MLB, but after three weeks of constant college basketball, the sudden void is massive. So soak it up. Watch all the games you can. That is until your team loses. Then you are allowed to completely shut yourself off from the sports world for about a week.
There are a million more things I could pontificate here. I could talk about the fact that the “second round” of the tournament deserves to be a national holiday even more than the day after the Super Bowl. Or that I have already taped off my designated pacing area for the inevitable nail-biter(s) that Michigan State puts me through, but this is starting to have a “random number of things we love about the tournament” feel to it and I would like to avoid that.
So enjoy the Tournament and look out for my flawless predictions coming some time on St. Patrick’s Day.
Andrew Hayes is the host of Impact Izzone for Impact Sports.
Photo: Scott Wasserman/Impact Sports