Put on your dancing shoes; NCAA Tournament is on

(Eagle News) — March is a time where the last remnants of winter gasp for its last breath and spring starts to claw its way in. In sports, the NFL free agency continues to make waves, the MLB spring training has started, and the NBA and NHL regular season is winding down preparing us for high stakes playoff series in April and May. While the summer and winter Olympics gives us national pride for a span of a few weeks every two years (four-year intervals for each), the Superbowl is considered the greatest sporting event every year, and the FIFA World Cup event puts the focus solely on soccer every four years, there is always something special about the NCAA tournament.

The NCAA Tournament, through its selection committee and conference tournaments, pick the 68 teams to compete at a chance at winning a national title. There is always speculation at the accuracy of seeds and placement within each bracket (there are four total brackets of 16 teams total, with four play in games for four different slots in each bracket) but the games are what actually bring the excitement.

Leading up to and throughout the tournament, there are different phrases. “On the bubble” refers to teams that are good but might need to do well in their conference championships or hope that their record and their wins during the regular season show enough potential. Mid Major refers to teams not in the big conferences such as Big East, Big Ten, ACC and Big 12 and might not get the same recognition on national television. Seeds are the placements of each team within the bracket. And “Cinderella” means which team will come out of nowhere to make a big splash during the tournament.

And that is where the intrigue lies. In most other sports the probability of a No.1 seed losing to a No.16 when it counts the most is unheard of. In the NBA and NHL, the 16th seed doesn’t even get that chance. The NFL picks only the top six teams in each conference. Granted there are countless more teams in the NCAA than in these professional sport leagues, it still makes for interesting television. People are drawn into the underdog story, the David versus Goliath. The average fan will want the top-seeded teams to fall, while the die hard fans will root for their favorite team or alma mater until the bitter end.

Many college basketball fans probably started filling out their brackets. A guessing game of who will move forward into the tournament and who will be left out. Do fans pick the upset or pick the one ranked higher? Do current win streaks matter? How about the conference they play in? This brings the casual fan to the forefront. A regular season spanning roughly 30 games with 68 teams makes a fan have to disperse 2040 games of data in their decision. Some, just pick their choice based off of the mascot they like. Basics of probability show that the chance of guessing the full bracket is about one in 9.2 quintillion. Yes, that is a real number and yet people still entertain play.

Over the next few weekends starting from 12 noon Eastern Standard Time to about midnight Thursday to Sunday, teams and players will attempt to achieve their dreams, hopes and either get hearts crushed or get a chance to win a national championship. Players unknown rise to the spotlight. Most of all, fans and the general public will enjoy the totality of what the NCAA tournament hype is all about. Pick a team or not, just by placing a number next to a team’s name already makes the story.   Tune in and understand why the tournament is called March Madness.

(Eagle News Service, Norman Castro, EBC New York Bureau)