031714_March_HED

Big news in sports this weekend: Formula 1 returned to action in Australia.

Oh, right, and it was Selection Sunday—kicking off a month of madness for college basketball players, fans and that one guy in your office who organizes the bracket pool every year (from whom you just received another email). Which means you need to get up to speed, quickly, which is where we come in.

Herewith, the hurried man’s guide to March Madness.

There’s Even More Teams in It This Year
This year, the tournament is actually starting with a field of 68 teams instead of the traditional 64. Basically, there are four wild card games (creatively titled the “First Four”) that will be played tomorrow and Wednesday between the last four teams to automatically qualify and the final four teams to receive at-large bids. Consider it adding a prologue to any Cinderella stories happening this year.

Always Stick with the Big Conference Teams
That’s just statistics. Boring, boring statistics.

Hitch to a Bandwagon You Can Ride to Glory
In the event you went to Kansas, you’re set. But chances are your alma mater isn’t in it, or won’t make it past the Sweet 16 (but, hey, you went to Harvard, so: last laugh). In other words, you’re going to have to pick a bandwagon at some point if you want to keep watching the tournament with any interest (inevitably it will be the team you picked to win it all or at least make the Final Four in your office bracket). Here’s a quick bandwagon guide: Kansas if you like raw talent (and high NBA draft picks). Villanova if you’re from PA—or can appreciate a team that’s enjoyed the quietest four-loss season ever. Arizona if you like guns and hate Daylight Savings Time. New Mexico if you hate Arizona (and like dark horses). Florida if your life is a never-ending spring break. Creighton if you loved the movie Nebraska. Louisville if you think they deserved better than a 4 seed. And Wichita State if you’re really into a team embodying their somewhat-nonsensical-maybe-inappropriate-yet-apropos name.

Speaking of the Shockers
They went undefeated this year—playing in a nonelite conference and not facing any top 25 teams. They also made it to the Final Four last year. They’ve got a No. 1 seed. There’s a good argument for them getting back into the big dance and for them fizzling out as the “I told you so” team of the year. Choose wisely.

Beware the Tween Seeds
Historically, the 12 seed playing the 5 has always been the “ripe for upset” matchup, but the 10 and 11 seeds have fared just as well—which means you might want to pay extra attention to these for bracket-busting potential. But don’t assume they’ll make it any further than third round. What we’re saying is: the high seeds are there for a reason (and will probably be in the Final Four for a reason). The middle seeds fall where they may, and may or may not make for some minor upsets (the 8-9 game couldn’t really be called an upset, especially since the 9 wins nearly as often). Seeds like 7 might make it a couple rounds but usually peter out by the Elite Eight.

What We’re Really Saying
It’s all a crapshoot. All you can do is revel in the Madness.

—N.B.

CONTRIBUTORS

  • Najib Benouar