how to prep for march madness

Dear friends… the madness of March is upon us, and if you’re not one who celebrates the ritual that is American college basketball with fervor, I’d like to suggest that you take the following steps to rectify this situation.

You see… this is one sports opportunity where the littlest team can win it all! And all they have to do… is just keeping winning game after game. For some teams, they didn’t even have to win throughout the season, but just win their final conference tournament, and they played into a spot in the big dance! Others got an at-large bid by the skin of their teeth and are fighting to prove worthy of that honor. It may seem silly that a fan of one of “those” major NCAA basketball teams is cheering for Cinderella – but that’s what makes watching every game other than UCLA’s worth it all. The highs of elation and the lows of devastation as the ball gets dribbled around the court. It might only be one shining moment for some kids, but man oh man is it a glorious three weeks of sport!

1. Download your bracket(s). Yes… men’s AND women’s brackets (which comes out today at 7pm EST). Fill them out. If someone at your office is having a pool, or your friends on facebook are starting a group, join in the fun! For $5… you’ll have an absolute blast!

Google all of the universities you’ve never heard of before and find out all about them. Pick teams to move on because your sister’s best friend’s aunt went to school there, or because their mascot (hello Wofford Boston Terriers!) would win in a head to head mascot battle.


[printable men’s bracket courtesy of the NCAA]

[printable women’s bracket – available at 7pm EST – courtesy of USA Today]

2. Schedule in time to watch some games on Thursday/Friday (MUCH easier if you’re on the east coast)… or watch some on your lunch break as well. Download the March Madness app on your iphone, or watch online as well. And if you’re crazy like we are watch all the games simultaneously on 3 TVs and your laptop! Or… at least catch SportsCenter each morning/night just to see all the insanity that you missed. And you have no excuse to miss any games on Saturday/Sunday!

p.s. this year’s tournament has expanded from 65 to 68… so now there are the “First Four” games played on Tuesday & Wednesday night!

3. Pick out some favorite teams from the start. Choose them for silly reasons, like their school colors or location or that your favorite NBA personality was an alum. Hate other teams for silly reasons as well, like their coach’s hair or the fact that the evil bully from middle school always wore their jerseys. But whatever you do… try and pick sides… and do it for as many teams as possible. This is why wagering on the bracket makes things more fun – you’re monetarily invested at least.

I’ve been told by former NCAA basketball players that my picks for March Madness make absolutely no sense year after year. I’m not logical, but I’m all about heart and grudges. And some poor teams get punished because they hire coaches that I’m forever eternally against and now I just can’t cheer for them (ahem, UNC). But my other reasons are just crazy.

4. Make new friends talking about the tournament with others! Just like the Superbowl, this is one of those opportunities that you have to make new friends at the coffee shop or at work or anywhere really! With 68 teams in the field, there’s a slight chance that everyone has a team they like in there! Or, maybe they’re really bitter (hello Harvard!) that they didn’t make it into the field?

5. Watch a college basketball inspired movie this week. Catch “The Fab Five” on ESPN this week and learn why I have always been neurotic about time-outs as a player and a fan. If you belong to Netflix instant, check out last year’s champs and 100 Years of Duke Basketball. There are lots of DVDs you can request from Netflix for normal viewing as well, like College Basketball’s 10 Greatest Teams or simply March Madness: The Greatest Moments of the NCAA Tournament.

6. And… if you don’t care at all and are just being dragged to the bar to watch the games… turn it into a drinking game. Take a sip for every time the following words/phrases are uttered: Cinderella, Wooden, Jimmy V, Coach K (during non-Duke games), President Obama’s bracket. Take a shot if they show the Christian Laettner, Bryce Drew, or Tyus Edney game winning plays. And, if you’re looking to really forget that you’re even watching basketball, during the Sweet 16/Elilte 8/Final Four, take a sip every time you see a commercial for “The Masters” … because CBS will never ever understand that manic college basketball fans are the exact opposite of golf fans.

7. Most of all… laugh, cry, cheer and scream! March Madness may spill over into April now.. but it’s amazing while it’s here!

Anyone else have any March Madness tips they’d like to add to the list???

p.s. Also feel free to dress like a crazy fan if your team is in the dance! You know, just cause I certainly do, whether I’m at the game or not!

[Sweet 16 Game – 2007]

[Elite 8 Game – 2007]


  • Maya

    Yay, what a great list! We are a crazy March Madness household and although I’m not much of a sports person, I have to admit that it’s lots of fun. We’re looking forward to Thursday night when H’s beloved MSU Spartans take on UCLA!

  • Laura

    I think you did a great job breaking it all down!

    I’ll be cheering for the Gators and the Tar Heels ( I know, I know :)

    The first bracket I ever did with my then boyfriend now husband came down to the championship game between Illinois and UNC. I had UNC :) Kinda been my lucky little team since then.

  • Michelle

    Last year, my husband told me to “keep it down” while watching March Madness games. I don’t think so buddy. He isn’t a basketball fan but I’ve been a loyal MM fan for a long time. Just printed out my brackets and I plan to foolishly fill them in later. I have no method. I just write down what I feel. Last year was HORRIBLE for me so I’m hoping this year is better. Beware of the 5-12 upsets!!!!

  • Carolyn C.

    Sigh…I’m just not a basketball fan. I’ll give it a shot this year because a bunch of folks at my work looooove basketball. But really, I’m waiting for opening game at Dodger stadium!!

  • Catherine

    I’m so excited for the madness this year except that UW would have to play the Tar Heels if they made it past Georgia. The Pac-10 championship game really has us ready for the tourney.