The Unhemmed Guide to March Madness

Yup, it’s almost here, the yearly tradition as wonderful and spectacular as there is in modern society. Yes, it’s time for March Madness. As you prep your face paint, wing recipe, and bracket reasearch we thought we’d lend a hand with a versatile primer on all things Tourney-related. Plus, when you’re buckling under the pressure and finally making those bracket picks, we’ve got some handy tips that will help take the madness out of March.

A Better Betting Pool
Filling out a March Madness bracket for an office pool is a mind-numbing job in itself. What’s supposed to be a fun, bonding experience turns into a scholastic aptitude test flashback. The struggle is real right from the start, when we’ve got to pick a winner from the “play-in game” featuring the likes of the North Florida Ospreys versus Wofford Terriers (What the fuck is an osprey and where the fuck is Wofford??). (Editor’s note: The osprey is a hawk-like bird of prey and Wofford College is located in South Carolina.) This dilemma plays out round-after-round to the point of we just start picking any team to win besides Duke. That’s a foolish thing to do because your hard earned money is on the line (read: a couple lap dances) and Coach K has sold his soul to the (Blue) Devil. A better betting pool to jump into is the Survivor Pool. Taking its cues from the uber-popular NFL version, each bettor picks a winning team each tournament day (there are usually 10 game days). If that team wins the bettor advances to the following round. The drama unfolds like the NCAA tournament itself as it’s one and done, so if your team loses you’re out. Seems easy, but the trick is that you can only choose a team ONCE. So, if you choose top-seeded Kansas in the opening round, you’ve already shot your load and can’t pick them again. The winner is the last one standing at the end.

The Apps You Need
Once you’ve been pushed into the deep end of the betting pool there are just TOO MANY damn games to keep track of, let alone watch, unless Gus Johnson (more on him later) is announcing. Thankfully, there some great apps to keep you up-to-date:

March Madness Liveis the official app of the tournament. Not only does it stream every game, but it has live updates of scores, highlights and previews. Best yet, it’s FREE to download, although the app requires you to log in with your cable provider.

ESPN doesn’t officially broadcast any NCAA games, but that doesn’t mean their (free) ESPN Tournament Challenge App can’t cover the breaking highlights, allows you to invite friends to a private/public bracket and tell the latest Dick (Vitale) joke.

Fanatic is an app made for tournament time, assuring that you won’t be sitting alone donning your Michigan Chris Webber jersey and trying to high-five yourself, which is both sad and dangerous. Basically, log onto the free app, type in your alma mater (or the college you lied about going to on your resume) and find the nearest watering hole filled with others who bleed the same sports colors as you.

Players To Watch
The best player in college basketball, LSU’s Ben Simmons, is sitting out the Big Dance, but another freshman phenom to keep an eye on is Duke’s Brandon Ingram, who many have compared to a poor man’s Kevin Durant, which is STILL good enough to make him the consensus #2 pick in this year’s NBA draft. Providence’s Kris Dunn, Michigan State’s Denzel Valentine and Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield are all player- of-the-year candidates, who all stayed in school to make a run to the Final Four. They might never be stars at the next level, but big-game upperclassmen always seem to make storybook runs in the NCAA tournament.

The March Madness Wildlife
The gift and curse of March Madness is that it brings people together. For some it’s a chance to bond with coworkers, friends and former college buddies. The flip side of it is that it brings out the competitive juices, especially if money is involved. Here are some March Madness fanatics to avoid for the next couple of weeks:

Loud and Proud - Never too-cool-for-school because he/she manages to drop their alma mater on you in every coffee break conversation, Loud and Proud straight up sucks. If they went to a perennial b-ball powerhouse they’ve pulled their college sweater out of mothballs or brought out their sweat-stained hat to proudly wear on Casual Friday. No Rick, for the last time, that jersey is not acceptable in the office, regardless of what color of khakis you wear it with.

The Unrepentant and Obnoxious Duke Homer - Dude, we get it, Duke basketball is the greatest, now shut the fuck up about it. A close cousin of Loud and Proud and unlike the dearly departed ODB (rest in peace!), ODH is to be ignored at all costs. The second you engage him you better be prepared for a Coach K leg-humping like you’ve never seen. Just stay away.

The Annoying Bracket Scientist - Every office has the Scientist who, when not roaming the office like a zombie from the Walking Dead, hiding out by the copy machine, trying to force-feed you a bracket sheet with a crazed look in his eyes, muttering BRACKETS, is poring over mountains of data so large they’d make that robot overlord Watson weep.

The Clueless Coed - Someone’s random girlfriend or side piece somehow got an invite to the pool, great. Sure, she may claim to know nothing about sports, but this is the same person who always seems to win the tournament pool after choosing teams based on “how cute their mascot is” and then humble brags about it. Go fuck yourself.

The Voice Of The Tournament
It’s not a stretch to say that there is no finer (and excitable) announcer in college basketball (in sports?) than the legendary Gus Johnson. Just go ahead and search youtube for “Gus Johnson’s Best Calls”. Ok fine, we did it for you. Incredible right? It’s not just the sheer volume, which is considerable, with which he yells , but his sheer unbridled and unimpeachable excitement. A buzzer beater called by Gus Johnson is everything the tournament aspires to be. YEEEEEESSSSSSSSS!!!

Our Tournament Favorites
Unlike years past, there are no sure-things in this year’s NCAA field, and that means the field is ripe for upsets. The usual Final Four suspects: Kentucky, Arizona, North Carolina, Villanova and defending champion Duke are good, but not great. Kansas and Michigan State have been jockeying for the top-seed all season long, and Virginia and Oregon finished strong. But, it’s truly wide open field that could see a dark horse team like Cal (sporting two lotto-bound freshman) or a middle seed like Purdue or St. Joesph's sneak into the Final Four.

Our Final Four Picks
Kansas
Michigan State
Kentucky
Oregon