March is when winter concludes and spring begins; the month when baseball is back and football is gone. Pro basketball and hockey are moving toward the playoffs, but are not quite there yet. So, in essence, March is the waiting period for sports — with the exception of one oh-so-important thing: March Madness.
It’s the culmination of every college basketball season, when 68 teams are chosen by a committee because of their impressive records or because they’ve won their conference tournaments, which gives them an automatic bid into the “Big Dance.”
Unlike baseball, basketball, and hockey’s long playoff systems, the N.F.L.’s playoff system, and the pathetic college football bowl system, the college basketball playoff system, for men and women, is the best, and always will be the best, playoff system in sports. The National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament represents a chance for upsets, a chance for Cinderella teams to knock off the powerhouses!
In last year’s tournament alone, some of the biggest upsets in N.C.A.A. men’s basketball tournament history occurred when a second-seeded regional team, Duke, lost to 15th-seeded Lehigh in the first round, and, hours before that game, another regional 15th seed, Norfolk State, defeated second-seeded Missouri. It was the first time ever that two 15th seeds had won in the same year and the first time that two second seeds had lost in the round of 64. That was sheer madness from the start. But why is this tournament so special and odd?
To begin with, March Madness is the most likely time period in which men decide to get a vasectomy, mainly because they must “rest and ice” after the surgery, which basically means they’ll be watching the tournament while getting sick pay.
It’s the only tournament that includes 68 teams, which is way more than any other major tournament, including soccer’s World Cup, which has 32 teams. Moreover, it’s a single-elimination tournament, which adds pressure to the higher seeds and makes the lower seeds’ wins amazing.
Now, about that madness part. The brackets are what make it even more special. Once the tournament field is selected, millions of people across America wage bets with their friends to see who can predict the most games correctly. According to an article in The Washington Times earlier this month, the odds of filling out a perfect bracket are less than one in 9.2 quintillion! Yes, you read that correctly: quintillion. You have a better chance of winning the lottery (one in 135,145,920) than you do of filling out a perfect bracket. If you’re a high school football player you have a .08 chance of getting drafted by the N.F.L., a much better chance than filling out a perfect bracket.
In reality, it has never happened — ever. One day maybe it will, but I promise you it won’t be this year because it’s already been a crazy college basketball season.
Although I do not know the selections as I write this, I have some bold predictions. Many top-10 teams have fallen this season, over and over again, so no one will be safe. First, there have been only three tournaments in which all four top regional seeds did not make the Final Four, including 2011. This year will be one of them.
My second prediction is that a fifth seed or lower will win the tournament for the first time since Kansas — which was ranked sixth in its region that year — did in 1988.
My third prediction is something many people have been saying for years, and something that has never been accomplished: A 16th seed will defeat a number-one seed for the first time ever.
All in all, I’m hoping for the craziest March Madness in my lifetime and maybe the craziest ever.
Every tournament brings its upsets and its winners, but this time I think something extremely special will happen. My prediction, one you can surely take to the bank, is that this March is going to be magical!
Matt Lownes is an East Hampton High School sophomore who is an avid sports fan, a certified pool lifeguard, a member of the varsity boys volleyball team, and of the junior varsity boys basketball and boys tennis teams.