Thursday, March 21, 2013

SHOUP SHOTS: March Madness for dummies

By Nathan Shoup, Sports Editor

It may be the most popular sports alliteration of all time: March Madness.

Selection Sunday — sports people love their alliterations — is the day seeding for the 68-team field is determined and was, well, on Sunday.

The actual tournament started on Tuesday, and brace yourself, because it continues for the next two-and-a-half weeks until the national championship game on April 8.

This tournament will be talked about in class. Check your classmates’ laptop screens. NCAA Tournament games will be streaming on them.

The tournament will be all over television and the Internet. If you can’t stand hearing about the NCAA Tournament, don’t check Twitter, or Facebook, or watch TV or leave your bed. Hibernation may be the only escape.

Whether you want it to or not, the tournament will become a part of your life over the next 17 days. So let’s prepare you for the upcoming madness.

If you don’t know much about the NCAA Tournament or college basketball in general, here are five things you should know about the tournament:

1. Embrace it

I have already talked a little about this but the tournament will break into your life. There is no use locking the front door.

Complaining or hiding won’t do much good. You’re not going to get any sympathy from the basketball fans on campus.

This is the Super Bowl of college basketball. It is that big.

Don’t expect any new hilarious beer commercials to be unveiled, however. The actual Super Bowl is aired on one channel for four hours. The NCAA Tournament airs on several channels over the course of a few weeks.

There could be a couple new commercials aired during the national championship game though.

TBS, CBS, TNT and TruTV will all air tournament games.

So buckle up and enjoy the ride. You should probably bring some snacks too. It’s only three weeks long.

2. Root for lower seed

The most common argument for not caring about a particular game is not knowing or previously hearing of either team playing.

There are teams in the field that even the biggest college basketball fans wouldn’t be expected to be aware of.

This list includes, but is not limited to:

1. Florida Gulf Coast, winners of the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament open with Georgetown as a 15 seed.

2. La Salle, the third-place team of the Atlantic 10, opened with Boise State on Wednesday, winning 80-71.

3. Iona finished fourth in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and opens with Ohio State today as a 15 seed.

Regardless, millions of people across the country will root for the lower seeds to pull off upsets. And they will happen.

Last year, the mighty Duke Blue Devils lost to a no-named Lehigh squad in the first round of the tournament. Duke was a two seed, Lehigh a 15.

It was just the sixth time in NCAA history a 15 seed eliminated a two seed in the first round.

Everybody loves an upset. So should you.

3. Not an excused absence 

The NCAA Tournament is essentially a national holiday. CBS has created a “Boss Button” so people can watch games online at work without getting caught.

If the boss walks by, the employee hits the button, and random spreadsheets pop up to make it appear the viewer is working. Genius.

That is how big this thing has gotten.

However, “sorry professor, I was watching the NCAA Tournament” won’t qualify to get you an absence excused.

So go to class and get your updates on your phone or laptop. Or you can get creative with it.

In high school, my friends and I pointed the class television in our direction so the teacher couldn’t see. With the tournament on, we took turns watching the game so we weren’t all looking at once. That’s determination.

Or you can simply send the “sorry professor, I’m sick” email and see how that works for you.

4. Gonzaga can win it

A team from Washington has a legitimate shot at the national title. And neither the Huskies nor the Cougars advanced to the NCAA Tournament.

Out of Spokane, little ol’ Gonzaga was named a one seed by the selection committee on Sunday. Joining the Bulldogs as one seeds are Indiana, Louisville and Kansas.

At 31-2, the big knock on the Zags is their strength of schedule. Gonzaga has the No. 97 strength of schedule in the country. It is the worst strength of schedule of any one seed in the last 20 years.

The highest seed in the tournament Gonzaga beat this year is fourth-seeded Kansas State. The Zags beat the Wildcats by 16 in December.

But you can only beat the teams on your schedule, and the Bulldogs finished 18-0 against conference foes and 5-0 against Big 12 opponents — three of which are in the tournament.

If you don’t have a favorite team to pull for, the Zags aren’t a bad option. Because the school is small — less than 5,000 undergraduate students — you will avoid being accused of cheering for a “front runner.”

And because the team is unbelievably talented, there is a chance you will be rooting for them in the national championship.

5. Uniforms play a factor 

I’ve been in my share of tournament leagues where we fill out the bracket and see who correctly predicts the most games.

Each year, I watch seemingly hundreds of hours of college basketball. I read into the teams and try to make an educated guess on which teams will make a run.

And each year, two or three people who haven’t watched a college basketball game all year surpass me.

It is called March Madness for a reason. It’s anarchy. There was no way to predict Duke would lose to Lehigh last year. Any of the upcoming upsets will be unpredictable as well.

So for those of you who pick winners based on which uniforms are “better” or which mascot you prefer, you have just as good a shot as any.

Most of us who like to think we know what we’re talking about end up overanalyzing games anyway.

Shoot, maybe I’ll fill out my bracket based on the teams with the most intimidating mascot too.

Sorry Minnesota Gophers (an 11 seed opening with UCLA tonight), nobody is scared of a Gopher. They shouldn’t be at least.

Cue the insanity. It’s March — finally.