The Fifth Quarter is a column written by Sports Editor Evan Neustater. The opinions expressed in the column are solely his.
It’s March, the month sports fans across the United States look forward to all year. Every March, the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament begins and sends millions of hardcore and casual fans alike into a stupor of college basketball binge-watching. Families, friends and office staff create bracket pools to see who knows the most about college basketball or, more likely, who has the best luck.
The three-week tournament, known as “March Madness,” marks one of the most entertaining sporting events in the world. The beauty of the tournament is that anything can happen — schools virtually no one has heard of before can upset traditional powerhouses, sending shockwaves through the sports world and bringing attention and recognition to their school. The idea of the “Cinderella” team can unite fans everywhere because, after all, who doesn’t love a good underdog story?
This year, I encourage everyone to enter a bracket pool. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never watched a basketball game in your life or if you’ve watched every game this season. This is what makes March Madness so great: Anyone and everyone has an equal chance of having the best overall bracket. With the stakes at their highest, no one really knows for certain who will win any given game. It’s either win or go home; survive and advance. So many games seem to come down to the final moments with both teams trying to keep their season and dreams alive. The tournament creates excitement few other sporting events can match.
I have been a part of a bracket pool every year since middle school, and I can promise it’s a great way for people to bond. I’ve seen people who have never watched a game turn into huge sports fans and go crazy when they picked the correct upset. I’ve seen people become friends just because they were in the same bracket pool and made similar picks. Regardless of anyone’s basketball knowledge, everyone should give it a try.
This year, it seems the University of Kentucky is poised to win it all. Coming from a 33-0 season and just the fifth undefeated season since the 1975-76 University of Indiana team, everyone seems to think the Wildcats are the obvious choice to win it all. But as NCAA Tournament history tells us, anything can happen.
Last season, Wichita State University went undefeated in the regular season but lost to Kentucky in just the second round of the tournament. In fact, the last four teams to finish the regular season undefeated did not win the national championship.
Use March Madness as a chance to bond with your friends and possibly even your college. Sports, if anything, are great social mediums through which people can bond over common goals and interests. And if you are so lucky to win your bracket pool, you can earn the glory that is bragging rights. And who doesn’t like talking trash to their friends?