ADDED 4:16PM Feb 24, 2011 by phjoshua
[Image: phjoshua]
Categories: BasketballPlayoffs

February is almost over – a fantastic fact if for no reason other than this: March Madness! That’s right, as February ends and March begins we get closer and closer to the greatest single elimination tournament in sports.

I love this tournament. I have since 1998 when I watched Bryce Drew and number 13 seed Valparaiso knock off number 3 seed Ole Miss in the first round. That shot was one of the most emotional sporting moments I had ever seen. The crowd, team and announcers went crazy. Everything amazing about the NCAA Men’s Division 1 Tournament was personified by that shot.

As the years have passed I’ve watched more and more. I’ve become more involved as a fan. I’ve gambled my money. I’ve won and lost. I’ve been beaten badly. I’ve been embarrassed. I’ve been overjoyed. I’ve gone through everything that a fan can go through. That includes missing the tournament when my beloved University of North Carolina Tar Heels were relegated to the NIT, that was sad.

With a new year though comes a new tournament. And new hope. Schools like Morehead State, Bucknell, Kent State and Bethune-Cookman can all dream of being the very first number 16 seed to beat a number 1 (depending on the final decisions on Selection Sunday). Then there are schools like Florida, Villanova, Missouri and Temple who could come in as 4 or 5 seeds, high enough that they will be expected to win at the beginning. But maybe not good enough to be expected to win the whole thing – unless they get hot – then they can show the world what they have to offer. That’s the beauty of March Madness. You can never know what the end result will be.

Side note: Right here and now I will bet anyone willing that the Final Four will not feature all (4) of the number 1 seeds in the tournament. Let me know if you want to make that wager.

This year we also get the increase to 68 teams from the traditional 64 team format. That means there’s even more of a chance that we will see a huge upset. It also means more revenue for more NCAA Division 1 schools, but let’s leave that alone for now. The exciting/challenging fact is that there are more games to try and predict when filling out your bracket.

Which brings me to the best part – The Bracket. If you’re a sports fan and have never filled out a March Madness bracket I don’t know what to say to you. Even if you don’t follow college basketball it is one of the most entertaining ventures in sports. Every game takes on meaning. Every upset that you predicted becomes worthy of bragging rights. Every loss by a high seed that you had making it to the Elite 8 feels like a punch in the stomach. It’s magnificent. I look forward to it all year long. And this year I’ll have it posted here for you. I can’t promise that I’ll run the table. But I can tell you that in 2002 I predicted 30 of 32 first round games. That’s my high water mark that I chase every time out now.

I’m starting to get excited kids. This is a wonderful thing we’re coming up to. It’s a stone throw away.

Selection Sunday: March 13, 2011 – 6pm. Live on CBS.

Game 1: March 15, 2011

Championship Game: April 4, 2011 – 9pm. Live on CBS.