It's that time of year again; the snow is starting to melt, the days are getting longer, and the time is nearing to pack away the thermal undergarments.
There is another March tradition that captures the attention of millions on a yearly basis, and that's the NCAA Men's Basketball tournament.
Starting on March 15, 64 U.S. colleges and universities will begin their quest for the title of national champions, in a win-or-go-home format, needing just six wins without a loss to attain that glory.
The tournament, or “March Madness,” as it has come to be known, is unlike any other sporting competition, and nearly rivals the Super Bowl with the array of people that it attracts.
The win-and-move-on/lose-and-go-home structure lends to drama in nearly every game along the way, creating timeless stories of “Cinderella” teams who make improbable runs, knocking off their favored opponents in David vs. Goliath fashion.
Aside from the pure entertainment aspect of just watching the games themselves, the gambling involved with the tournament is also unique in its structure.
The word bracket takes on a whole new meaning in March, as grown men revert back to their days as students cramming for exams. The number crunching and match-up speculation that goes in to trying to build the best bracket can be mind-boggling.
Take a second to digest the numbers; in the 64-team field there are 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 possible brackets. That's the number nine followed by eighteen zeros, or over 9.2 quintillion.
If everyone on the planet Earth randomly filled out a bracket, the odds would be over 1.5 billion to one of anyone having a perfect bracket.
Odds are not in anyone's favor of hitting that perfection plateau, but as a bracketeer myself, I know that it's nice to not be crossing too many school names off until the second or even third round.
This is another massive part of what makes the tournament such a huge draw, in that even if you don't follow college hoops or root for a particular school, you take up allegiance with those teams that you've picked to succeed.
How many of us out there really have ties to Creighton University? Well it's in Nebraska for starters, and their team name is the Blue Jays and they enter the tournament as a number eight seed in the Midwest regional. Can anyone name their starting five players?
Probably not, but it doesn't matter, because if you have them circled in your bracket to move on past Alabama in the round of 64, they are your favorite team for that three- hour time period.
Allegiances change as the tournament field whittles down and we all inevitably scratch off more and more names off the bracket that we were all convinced was “the one.”
Just as fleeting as devotion to one team can be, so too is the disdain for a “favorite” team who was upset in an early round to make a right mess of things on your bracket.
I can't believe Wisconsin lost to Montana! I had them going to the Elite Eight! My whole bracket is a mess already, thanks for nothing Wisconsin!
Win or lose your office pool, the tournament never disappoints for entertainment, and timeless stories.
For me, this tournament is an official kick off to spring, as I hope against astronomical odds that maybe this year my bracket will be that one out of 9.2 quintillion.