March Madness

by Alex Berkman

It’s that time of year again….March Madness! One of the most exciting times to be a sports fan is here, and many are already enjoying these games. For whoever you may be, a soccer, football, or even hockey fan, when college basketball in March begins, you will be glued to the television, watching 68 teams compete for the ultimate crown: a National Championship. March Madness is viewed as such an exciting time of year by sports fanatics across the country, but why? Maybe, we are attached to experiencing the thrill of supporting our favorite team, witnessing a Cinderella story in the making, or monitoring our substantial bets. It is a time like no other, in which collegiate athletes pour their entire heart and soul on the court. Maybe that is the reason why we are inspired by the game and the players who play it. March Madness is so unique compared to any other event, for its unpredictability is truly unmatched. As a ninth-grade student, Evan Weiss stated: “[In March Madness,] you have to expect the unexpected.” Crazy things happen during this time of year: upsets that shock the world, the making of legends, and game winners on game winners on buzzer beaters on buzzer beaters. Hence, the title of the event, March … MADNESS!

This year, the perennial contenders (Duke, Kentucky, Gonzaga, North Carolina, along with the newcomers such as Tennessee, Texas Tech, and Nevada) open up as favorites to bring home the ultimate trophy to their university. My squad, and pick to win it all, the Duke Blue Devils, leads the way as sole favorites to win it all with 9/4 betting odds according to “Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.” But will they be able to return to full form when superstar freshman Zion Williamson returns? Can their talented yet inexperienced young stars get the job done for Coach Mike Krzyzewski in his whopping 39th season? Another ACC powerhouse, Virginia, looks to make history after becoming the first number one seed to be knocked out by a sixteen seed in one of the all-time greatest upsets; March Madness is wild! Gonzaga, a West Coast team often scrutinized for their lack of strength of schedule, has tallied up a couple of impressive wins this year including over a fully healthy Duke team and looks to take their dynamic offense, led by Rui Hachimura, all the way to the end of the tournament. That rounds out the favorites, but which under-the-radar schools have the capability to make a big splash in the Big Dance? There are two that come in mind for most College basketball fans: Murray State and Buffalo. The Racers of Murray State will enter the tournament as a potential upset pick because of their sensational point guard, Ja Morant, a potential top pick in this year’s NBA draft. The Buffalo Bulls, a two-loss team coming off of an outstanding season, have the capability to make noise in the tournament because of their stingy and swarming defense that is sure to overwhelm opposing teams.

There’s a lot on the line during March Madness and not just for the athletes. March Madness has a tremendous effect on all who take part in it, an obsessive effect. Many harness this obsession by taking part in competitive betting pools. According to a report by WalletHub, 70 million tournament brackets were completed last year, amounting to about $10.4 billion wagered in total in 2018. This obsession to follow your bracket has shown to not just have a significant impact on distracting kids but adults as well. Another study states that “unproductive workers during March Madness amounted to an estimated $6.3 billion in corporate losses last year.” We all get it… March Madness is addicting, and betting is part of its culture.

As renowned sports commentator and college basketball fanatic, Dick Vitale, once said, “March Madness is an incredible three weeks. I firmly believe it’s the greatest three weeks in sports.” He’s absolutely right. It is.