Sports

NCAA men’s basketball: March madness takes hold online

The above matchups are remaining teams still surviving, and are expected to be exciting. (credit: Nick Harper/Senior Staff) The above matchups are remaining teams still surviving, and are expected to be exciting. (credit: Nick Harper/Senior Staff)

It’s that special time of year again, when the madness starts.

Last Thursday, the men’s NCAA basketball tournament kicked off and, as usual, didn’t fail to disappoint. There were, of course, the expected games, such as first-seeded Kentucky’s win over 16th-seeded Eastern Tennessee State, but upsets were to be found as well. 14th-seeded Ohio beat third-seeded Georgetown, and 15th-seeded Robert Morris came surprisingly close to victory over second-seeded Villanova in overtime. Everyone’s bracket is certainly hurting after first-seed Kansas lost to ninth-seed Northern Iowa in a close match. The tournament is off to a great start, and it will certainly have even more twists and turns before the champion is decided on April 5.

If the 63 games occurring aren’t over the span of a little more than three weeks enough for you to be at least slightly interested in the tourney, the potential to get involved using brackets just might. Although every NCAA tournament is filled with great basketball playing, it’s almost more impressive to see how many people get involved in the action. If there was ever a time to jump on the bandwagon, this is it.

I’ll admit myself that I have not watched a full college basketball game all year. But that didn’t stop me from staying up until almost 2 a.m. making sure that my bracket would be ready to go so I wouldn’t miss out on the action. My family makes a pool every year and there was no way I was going to miss out in the prize money, trash-talking, or cheering that goes along with it.

Junior chemical and biomedical engineering major Laura McKee explained the hype. “Filling out a bracket is my way to be involved in March Madness. It’s a really exciting tournament, and filling out brackets makes it even more fun to watch the games,” McKee said.

Not to date myself, but I remember the days when I got my bracket from the newspaper and wrote the teams in myself. But now with more easily accessible blank brackets, there’s no excuse to not make a bracket. Websites such as ESPN.com, Yahoo!, and even Facebook make brackets accessible at the click of a button. They even update automatically, making them even easier to use. I’ve used multiple sites at a time for the different pools I participate in. At one point, I was checking three different websites — one for family, one for friends, and one for work — to track my progress within each group.

Even though I don’t watch the games all season long, I can access game analysis and previews, which are often linked right to the matchup on the bracket. Percentages of who picked who are given, letting me know instantaneously if I’ve picked the dark horse or if everyone else was thinking exactly the same thing. Brackets make watching the games more interactive and fun to follow. They are simple to use and add features to simplify it even further.

Not that picking the winner based on statistics is even necessarily what the tournament is about. Josh Plotnik, a junior biology major, said, “March Madness is about rooting for the underdog and watching the big dogs fail. Everyone hopes to win their bracket, but in reality, they would much rather see their championship pick lose to a 15 seed in the first round.” Because the tournament is so unpredictable, you never know what to expect.

Junior chemical engineering major Eric Roudabush added, “Odds of picking a perfect bracket are horrible. There is lots of luck involved, but it’s fun to try to pick upsets.”

By picking a winner for each game, each matchup becomes important. It’s not just the final winner who counts. Roudabush explained, “You only have one favorite team. By making a bracket you can find a team you don’t really know to root for just so you can have a good bracket.” McKee had a similar idea. “We don’t have a team here at CMU, but by picking teams in your bracket, you have someone to cheer for.”

Even watching the games has become easier. The NCAA, in collaboration with cbssports.com, streams the action live on their website. “I watch as many as I can. This year I was a little busy, but I’ve seen at least parts of eight or 10 of the games,” Roudabush said.

So while bandwagoning might get a bad rap, I don’t mind it. College basketball gets the national spotlight for a few weeks, and anyone, from die-hard fans to confused bandwagoners, can enjoy it all the same.