Get ready for March Madness

Jon Young

The most captivating event in sports kicks off this week. Not to take away from where Peyton Manning is going to land or what team Dwight Howard is going to get traded to, but those are second fiddle to March Madness.

The big dance represents more than just a giant metaphor of “Cinderella.” It’s a time when underdogs get a chance to make a name for themselves, and it gives players a chance to cement their legacy among the legends of college hoops.

Many of these players don’t go on to play professionally, at least in America. So the tournament is the biggest stage they will play on in their athletic careers. This notion is reinforced by the energy put forth in the win or go home effort that ensues.

Every game could be the last, and this shows on the court. Teams fight to stay afloat and make it to the next round. The high level of competition reflects how anything can happen.

Every year, a team emerges from the depths of the lower seeds, knocking off top-ranked teams and shocking the field. The unpredictability of the tournament helps to separate it from the professional sports world, where the outcomes seem fixed.

The NBA, on the other hand, rarely features upsets, especially in the playoffs where it’s pretty easy to pick the strongest few teams out of each conference and watch them thrash their competition en route to the finals.

However, in the NCAA tournament, the odds of predicting a perfect bracket are nine quintillion to one. It gives the average sports fan a chance to be in the same field as the experts, because at the end of it all, even ESPN’s analysts have busted brackets.

Sure, it’s easy to pick all the No. 1 seeds to make the Final Four, but it’s doesn’t mean you’re going to win the pool you have going with your friends. Last year, the Final Four consisted of third, fourth, eighth and 11th seeded teams.

That’s not to say there isn’t strategy in picking teams. Usually, teams with a star point-guard make the deepest runs. Last year’s final between Butler and Connecticut came down to guard play, as each team was led in scoring by their star point-guard.

Since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985, a No. 16-seeded team has never knocked off a No. 1-seeded team, but 36 times a No. 12 seed has taken down a No. 5 seed. The uncertainty captivates audiences. That’s why the tournament draws in so many participants. For one month of the year, everyone has a chance to be a winner.

In 2009, American businesses lost an estimated $1.2 billion in worker productivity during the tournament.

That could be attributed to the fact that an estimated one out of 10 Americans fill out a bracket, with over $2.5 billion estimated to be wagered and only four percent which is done legally in Las Vegas.

Whether you pick your winners by their mascots, names, seeds or color of their jerseys, you should fill out a bracket this season.

It can be online, with friends or through work. Maybe throw some money on it to make it interesting. Either way, everyone should join the madness.