Before beginning my freshman year at Syracuse University, all I knew about March Madness was that it was a basketball tournament that took place... in March. Frankly, I didn't care about collegiate sports at all and I didn't know a single thing about them. After my total immersion in all things Orange, however, I developed a deep sense of school spirit. I found myself at basketball games with friends and strangers, screaming my throat raw because I was emotionally invested in my team's performance. It dawned on me that that feeling of unity was the main reason people love sports so much. And so, as a newly minted college sports fan, I found myself looking forward to the first March Madness tournament I would be watching. Of course, I also had no idea what the tournament entailed or how it worked. To be honest, I barely even knew which conference Syracuse was in. Without further ado, I present the top ten things I found myself thinking throughout the course of my March Madness maiden voyage.
1. So how do they pick the teams that get in?
You’d think there would be a relatively simple way to determine this. I, like the uneducated NCAA fan I am, assumed that selection was based purely on a team’s record. Little did I know that the formula to determine if a school’s basketball team is worthy of an esteemed slot in the bracket is basically the quadratic formula on steroids. After looking up, “What is a basketball RPI?” I still couldn’t really explain it to you.
2. Wait, there’s a SHOW to reveal the selections?
Having an hour and a half long television program just to announce the teams and where they fall in the bracket seems excessive. To be honest, I always thought they just slapped the 68 teams into a bracket and then posted it on ESPN’s website or something. While the selection show might be a little extra, I must admit to watching it eagerly when I was home over spring break.
3. Syracuse didn’t get in and we are upset.
After losing in the first round of the ACC tournament, Syracuse fans were all on edge going into selection Sunday. Fans on campus were tentatively optimistic. “No, we were in the Final Four last year, we’ve definitely got a spot. We’ll make it,” was a bit of a mantra for SU students. Turns out, a 2016 Final Four slot does not a 2017 bracket slot make. Honestly, it’s for the best that students were on break for Selection Sunday. If the mood around campus the day after the election was dreary, I couldn't even imagine the aftermath of not getting a spot.
4. How many schools ARE there in Division One basketball? Like, how competitive is it REALLY?
There are 347 Division One collegiate basketball teams? So actually, the bracket is super competitive? Who knew? Not me!!
5. *Tries to make a bracket*
My attempt at making a bracket consisted of me Googling “March Madness 2017” and starting to pick winning teams entirely based off of what Bing told me their odds were. After about three minutes, I realized that I recognized about 20 percent of the schools in the bracket by name and knew significantly less than that about their basketball programs. After watching some games of the tournament, however, I did wish I had filled out a bracket so I always had a team to root for. Hindsight is always 20/20.
6. Always rooting for the underdog makes games more exciting.
After deciding my abysmal level of knowledge about college basketball disqualified me from making a bracket, I watched most games entirely free of a team to root for. Usually, I just cheered on the underdogs because the announcers were more fun to listen to when the unexpected happened.
7. "Gonzaga is my favorite cheese,” and other jokes I think are funny about teams I’ve never heard of before.
That Gonzaga one was really my only hit. I’ll be here all week, folks.
8. Whoa, they narrowed 68 teams down to four REAL quick!
Overall that took what, a week and a half? I really thought March Madness was more of a marathon than a sprint, but man was I wrong. After following along with the game schedule for this tournament for the first time, I have a newfound respect for every one of the collegiate athletes on competing teams. Those guys play a LOT of high-stakes basketball in an incredibly concentrated time period.
9. “STOP FOULING PEOPLE ON PURPOSE, THAT DOESN’T EVER WORK.”
I believe I found myself yelling at the TV during almost every close game. I really don’t understand the whole idea of intentionally fouling a player on the opposite team just to stop the clock. In theory I suppose I get the idea of needing to preserve time, but at the cost of allowing the other team free penalty shots? That doesn’t seem lucrative to me. I give this strategy a 1/10.
10. I am... invested in this now? I have come so far.
Good luck to the Final Four teams competing for the championship! May the best team win!
Lead Image Credit: Chelsea Ferenando via Unsplash