It’s that time of the year again, the opening weekend of March Madness: the time of year to burn a couple sick days by vegging on the couch for two consecutive days in a buffalo-wing-comatose state, consumed by the ensuing madness and painful decimation of our pursuit of bracket glory!
By why is it that we adore the impending forty-eight hours so?
One would fail to argue that the NCAA product exceeds that of the NBA, as there are numerous idiotic elements the college brand of basketball possesses that their professional counterpart does not: the thirty-five second shot clock that renders the final ninety seconds of play to a festival of fouling ; there is the coaches over-managing the games, being allowed to call time-outs after their team scores; there is the mandatory media time-outs, though placed at the first break in play after the sixteen, twelve, eight and four minute marks, coaches seem to always forget and burn one of their own, forcing situations where the viewers will be slapped with two sets of commercials with just thirty seconds of game time elapsing. Which means in a two-hour game a viewer will see the Sean-Penn-starring-as-Liam-Nielson-in-Taken trailer fifteen times.
Additionally, there is the whole AAU-inlfuenced bit that leaves the players void of fundamental training, incapable of shooting or properly running a pick-and-roll, which gives us 50-47 rock fights. The only NCAA rule that I can discern the NBA should adopt is the one-and-one bonus system. Though the NBA players shoot a much higher percentage from the charity stripe, there is something about the added pressure that leads to more drama in late-game situations. Imagine how fun it would be to watch Lebron shoot a 1-and-1 with twelve seconds left and the Cavs up two?
But even with all these admitted, glaring deficiencies in the college game, we stay in our sweatpants all day and engulf the tournament in large, unchewed, gluttonous bites. So much so that the NCAA tournament TV rights are worth more than the NBA Playoffs and the Super Bowl!
Why do we love it? Certainly it has nothing to do with observing the game at its purest form, as we all know the NCAA is the present-day Costra Nostra.
We love the tournament for the bracket and for what the bracket represents.
We love this month-long tournament because we are obsessed with self-validation.
Our self-validation obsession is best highlighted through the lens of our social media dependency. A tool we use only to broadcast the lives we are living by falsifying the degree in which we are enjoying to live them. If we’re having a night that is a 6-out-of-10, we will throw in some hyperbole to make sure the hundreds of followers, that we don’t really like or know but really care how much they like us, will drown in envy of the fun they’re perceiving that we are having. It’s why we Snapchat bottle service, even though we didn’t buy it, and it’s why we always always always take a picture out of the window of a airplane.
The tournament, more accurately our bracket, serves us as a public display that our sports opinion matters. Sure we might win some scratch if we seize our office/family/friend-group pool, but really we do it for the pride. We watch each of these poorly-played, flaw-riddened games because each one is an examination of how smart we are: we watch to validate our intelligence in relation to the others we know.
And here are my picks, since I, like you, also care too much.
Early Upsets: Dayton wins, Buffalo wins, Davidson wins, Texas and Ohio State. Also Wichita to sweet sixteen.
Elite Eight Picks: Kentucky, Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Arizona, Villanova, Virginia, Utah, Iowa State.
Final Four: Kentucky, Arizona, Virginia, Iowa State
Chipper: Kentucky over Virginia.