No More Than One

As the men’s basketball beat writer for The Daily Campus, last March was the best month of my life.

I got to experience the NCAA tournament in person. From Dayton’s wins over Ohio State and Syracuse to Aaron Harrison’s dagger three against Wisconsin in the Final Four, I saw some of the great moments of the 2014 men’s basketball championship up close and personal.

Of course, the best moments came with the six UConn wins I experienced en route to the program’s fourth national title.

There is nothing better than the NCAA tournament.

This year, my experience is a little different. UConn is not in the NCAA tournament. The longest Spring Break of my life was highlighted by the Huskies’ loss to Arizona State in the NIT on the eve of the NCAA Tournament’s round of 64.

On the bright side, I got to kick up my feet this year. Instead of running in and out of interviews and flipping channels in an uncomfortable hotel room, I had my TV, iPad and computer all on different games. I had a plate of wings or a pizza and a beer. I was living the dream for someone who wanted to watch the opening weekend of the tournament in peace.

What a wild first weekend it was. Two 14-seeds reached the third round. Kentucky got a scare from Cincinnati. And some guy’s 20th bracket is still perfect on CBS.

The brackets. The freaking brackets.

That is what the NCAA tournament – or as your friend who only watches basketball four days each year calls it, “the March Madness tournament” – is all about for a lot of people. They fill out brackets based on a plethora of different variables. Colors, mascot names, coin flips; brackets consume fans’ lives for three straight weeks.

There is nothing wrong with filling out a bracket, of course. I do it every year. We all dream of being the one to have the first perfect bracket of the Internet era, overcoming the 1 in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 odds (yes, that is the actual probability).

I do not expect to ever have a perfect bracket, nor do I ever expect to see one filled out. But if ESPN and other websites keep offering fans multiple bracket entries, it is going to get likelier and likelier each year.

For as great as the NCAA tournament is, there are a lot of things wrong with it – from the clear exploitation of student-athletes for horrifying profit by the NCAA to Charles Barkley.

But the multiple brackets are right up there.

There is even a Buffalo Wild Wings commercial in which Stephen Rannazzisi goes through all the brackets he filled out with different scenarios, such as a No. 1 seed going all the way or losing to a No. 16 seed in the second round. With every scenario, Rannazzisi’s friend shakes his head and points out that it “cheapens the bracket.”

Fill out one bracket. I do not understand why this is such a difficult concept. When I make a choice on a bracket, I stick with it. I do not make multiple brackets for different situations.

Where is the fun in that?

The fun with brackets is that the upsets and situations that go for or against our picks make the games more interesting when we do not have a rooting interest. People who fill out brackets normally put them up against their friends. If your friend picked Kentucky to win it all, but you have Wisconsin, it makes the game more interesting to watch. You want to beat your friend.

But if you picked both Wisconsin and Kentucky, where is the fun in that?

“Well, it doesn’t matter; I’m right either way.”

That’s stupid. Fill out one. Go with your gut.

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