Much like Netflix and hot dog eating contests, March Madness is an American staple that holds the very fabric of our society together.
By now you've probably already been coaxed by friends or co-workers to fill out a bracket in honor of the festivities. To those uninitiated with college basketball, this task might seem tedious or even intimidating, but I'm here to assure you that only the former is true.
Even if you don't care for sports, there's a fairly good chance that you'll either watch or be present for a conversation about March Madness in the coming weeks. So below I've created a basic guide to watching the tournament for those who previously had no knowledge or interest in watching the tournament.
Frequently Asked Questions About March Madness
What is March Madness?
March Madness is the commonly used moniker for the NCAA Basketball Tournament. The tournament consists of a field of 68 teams (which are whittled down to 64), that compete against one another in a single elimination tournament to determine the eventual college basketball national champion.
Sorry, the 64 teams are split up into four regions (midwest, east, west, south) where each of them is ranked between 1 and 16 (these are the "seeds" you hear about), with 1 being the best. The four teams that win their region participate in the Final Four (taking place in Atlanta this year), which is the fancy term for the semi-finals of the tournament. The last team standing after the Final Four and national championship games is the NCAA basketball national champion.
How Much Do the Players Get Paid?
Nothing! Thanks for asking.
"This is stupid," "I hate sports," and Other Common Excuses That Shouldn't Prevent You From Filling Out a Bracket
The easiest way to make the tournament interesting is to arbitrarily pick which teams will win what games, and then to root like crazy for your completely random predictions to come to fruition.
Now if you want to fill out a respectable bracket that gives the impression to your friends (family, co-workers, etc.) that you've made your choices after careful thought and analysis, I recommend you just copy Nate Silver's picks since he has a decent handle on predicting things.
If you want to actually win your office pool however, you should by no means attempt to utilize research or second-hand logic to assist you in filling out your bracket. The reason March Madness is so beloved is that nearly every year there are numerous upsets that nobody who follows college basketball closely could predict because they defy logic. If a person doesn't watch college basketball, they aren't as prone to the biases that prevent supposed "experts" from foreseeing these monumental upsets.
In short, use your ignorance to your advantage, because in the majority of March Madness pools I've been involved in, the person who ultimately wins hasn't watched one dribble of a basketball all season prior to filling out their bracket.
Winning a March Madness bracket pool is easily the most efficient way to both win some money and injure the pride of your sports obsessed acquaintances at the same time. And if you lose, well, you don't watch basketball so it's not a big deal. Michael Scott would refer to this situation as a "win-win-win."
Things You Can Say to Sound Like You Know What You're Talking About
As I explained in my Super Bowl watch guide, the best way to go about being involved in a sports conversation without knowing anything about sports is by giving the person you're talking to the opportunity to show off their knowledge. You see, the majority of sports conversations don't deal with actual analysis or debate, but rather two people independently attempting to one up each other with statistics. By using a few leading phrases and questions, you can have the appearance that you follow college basketball closely without having any idea of what's actually going on. If you're stuck watching some games this March with your sports savvy friends, try busting a few of these phrases out:
"Do you think he's one and done?"
Only use this if the announcer at any point highlights a good play made by a player that's a freshman.
"They have impressive ball movement."
Whenever one team is beating another by at least 10 points, you can say this and sound like you're paying attention.
"There just aren't any dominant teams this season."
Great conversation starter that doesn't require you to elaborate.
"Ugh, my bracket is so screwed."
People lamenting about how poorly their bracket is doing is the second most hallowed tradition of March Madness behind not properly compensating the players participating.
Say this whenever, 95 percent of people will be on board. If you're asked to expand on this, just say, "They're so overrated!"
BONUS: If you want to go beyond just sounding like you know what you're talking about and skip right to being a dickish sports fan, here's a tip: Whenever you hear someone refer to any game that takes place on Thursday or Friday as a "first round game" quickly correct them and say "No, that was a second round game, the first round was on Tuesday and Wednesday." And then quickly flex your muscles and blindly fling a paper ball over your shoulder into a trash can 15 feet away.
People (Or Massive Red Blobs) Worth Watching During the Tournament
VCU band director guy
It's very likely that the most entertaining figure involved in this tournament has absolutely nothing to do with basketball. Ryan Kopacsi is the pep band director at Virginia Commonwealth University, and as you can see in the video below, he's nothing short of an enigma:
Before you ask, yes he's also a male model on the side, and yes, according to his profile on a website called Model Mayhem, "Nude work is not out of the question but will be discussed at length."
Mostly unknown prior to this season, Ole Miss guard Marshall Henderson has elevated himself to being perhaps one of my favorite college athletes of all-time by virtue of his mastery of in-game crazy. Deadspin has covered Henderson's antics at length, but below is just a brief glimpse of him winning a game and proceeding to mock the opposing team's fans in a hilarious fashion.
Everybody loves a good villain.
The Western Kentucky mascot
Western Kentucky's mascot is referred to as Big Red. It is the creation of either my greatest dreams or nightmares.
And with that, you should be at least remotely prepared to deal with the non-stop barrage of basketball that is likely to greet you for the next few days. Stay strong, and never, ever forget that Duke sucks.