The beginning of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament marks the beginning of filling out brackets and competing with friends for the most—or least—accurate Final Four picks. It also brings shocking upsets as you root on your favorite college team, or maybe just Middle Tennessee, because they have “cool colors” or a “cute mascot.” Regardless of whether you follow college basketball, or don’t know the difference between a free throw and a layup, the thrill of competition and the inevitable letdown resulting from a busted bracket compel many Glen Allen students to watch the games, marvel at the parity, and root for the underdog.
During lunch on Thursday, Glen Allen students watch the first round of March Madness. Competition and pride lead all sorts of people to fill out a bracket and try to predict matchups. Photo Credit: Cassie Coughlan
Money, pride, and, most importantly, bragging rights are on the line as students bet on their “picking” abilities. Although you can find loads of experts, claiming that advanced analytics can help you succeed, in the end, a person without a trace of knowledge can win any bracket pool, angering their competitive counterparts. Freshman Mohan Shankar said, “It’s kind of exciting that no one’s really filled out a perfect bracket, and it’s interesting to see how close you can actually get.”
However, many students have formulated their own bracket-filling methods. Mohan said with a smile, “I just copy off of ESPN.”
Senior Kyle Hoffmann explained his strategy, saying, “First, I tried to identify the contenders, and I just went backwards from there. I put Arizona as my national champion because I had watched the Pac-12 title game [which Arizona won], and they’re amazing; they’re such a good team. Then I picked my Final Four, and the other part was picking all the upsets, like (#13) Bucknell over (#4) West Virginia and (#11) Kansas State over (#6) Cincinnati.”
Upsets have defined March Madness from the beginning and are what make choosing winners so difficult. If an obscure team from an unknown conference goes on a magical run and wins its conference tournament, it is automatically entered into the NCAA Tournament, which is why teams like Florida Gulf Coast and Northern Kentucky are playing against perennial powerhouses. Team after team has risen to the occasion, with there being, on average, seven double-digit seed upsets per year. You cannot quantify enthusiasm, grit, and determination, all of which make a potential “Cinderella” team. Mohan said the tournament is special because “it’s about making it big and following your dreams,” rather than money or fame.
At the Silent Night Game, many avid GAHS fans rooted on the Jaguars. Students’ interest in basketball was again piqued as Selection Sunday approached. The fast-paced, arbitrary nature of the tournament is appealing to many. Photo Credit: Cassie Coughlan
“It is always unpredictable, said Kyle. “You never know who’s going to win. It’s not like the NBA Finals, where it’s just two teams every year. It’s always a toss-up, and it’s a lot of fun because you get to watch these teams that have never been here before against the big guys who are in the tournament every year… People just go from zero to hero so fast.”
Watching the NCAA Tournament, with its storylines, quirks, and surprises, brings together families and friends. Senior Kaelie Jager reflected, saying, “I personally enjoy it because it’s a family bonding time. My dad and I get really competitive with it. So, when he fills out a bracket and I fill out a bracket, we’ll spend time staying up late watching the games and talking about it constantly… Just enjoying those moments together [with family].”
“Anyone can do it. So you don’t really have to be into basketball and really know what is going on, and sometimes that’s the more fun part is just going in blind,” said Kaelie. Everyone can experience the uncertainty of hoping that maybe this is your year to win. All you need is a bracket, and a computer or pencil. Start picking!
Printable bracket: Although the games have started, you can still make your own picks.
Schedule: The Round of 64 games are on Thursday and Friday with the winners playing over the weekend.