The wonderfulness that is March Madness is once again upon us, though I will admit that I am just not as invested this year as I usually am. Part of the problem is that my kind-of, sort of alma mater (if one year of graduate studies counts) the University of Connecticut is banned from participating in the NCAA tournament this year due to subpar academic performance. Having been a teaching assistant at the school during my brief tenure for a class that included players from the 1999 National Championship team, let’s just say I am not all that surprised. Without my team involved, some of the bloom is off the March Madness rose.
I’m also at a disadvantage this year because I have not paid one lick of attention to college basketball this season, so I really have no idea who is good and who isn’t. Even when UConn isn’t facing sanctions I don’t watch nearly as much college ball as I used to; I’m far more invested in football (NCAA and NFL) now than I used to be and I just don’t have the time to keep up. I don’t listen to much sports radio anymore either, so I haven’t even caught cursory discussions of who might be a contender. So when I went to fill out my bracket this year, I was shocked that my nemesis Gonzaga was a #1 seed. How did that happen?
It is helpful that my legitimate alma mater (in that it gave me an actual degree) and current employer, the University at Albany, has made it to the tournament. They are facing Duke, which is not good luck for them, but at least it brings a little excitement to the area. Plus almost everyone hates Duke, so the Great Danes have a lot of people rooting for them to defeat the Blue Devils. I may or may not have convinced my boss that we need to take an extended lunch on Friday so that we all can watch the game.
So I don’t have a ton of confidence in my bracket this year – I just kind of guessed in a lot of places and checked Nate Silvers’ bracket to see who he picked for a few games that I was really undecided on. There seems to be a lot of parity this year, so perhaps random guessing isn’t the worst strategy in the world.
Brackets, however, aren’t just for college basketball. I’ve noticed this year that all sorts of pop culture topics have received the March Madness treatment. It is a fun way to decide things – I’ve working on a bracket system to determine what affectations my friend Dan will assume. This all started with a discussion of pocket watches and culminated in my apparent determination to turn him into Mr. Peanut. So if college basketball just isn’t your thing, but you don’t want to be left out of incessant talk about the status of your bracket, check out these pop culture alternatives:
Fictional Presidents Tournament (No Ticket Sports)
Star Wars Character Tournament (Lucas Films)
Worst Celebrity Style (Go Fug Yourself)
Musical March Madness (MTV)
Tournament of Books (The Morning News)
Greatest Sci-Fi Show (io9)
Martini Madness (Slate)
Favorite Public Radio Show (89.3 KPCC)
March Musical Madness (Boradway.com)
2016 Presidential Candidates (The Fix)
Best TV Duo – nonromantic (Buddy TV)
90s Cartoon Characters (The FW)
Ultimate March Pop Culture, Food and Sports Bracket (Bleacher Report)
Hair Band Madness Tournament (Culture Brats)
Middle-Earth Madness (The One Ring)
Swear Word Bracket (Deadspin) – outstanding!
Teen Movie Madness (Forever Young Adult)
TV couples (Zimbio)
It Girl Bracket (Nylon)
South Park March Madness (Screen Invasion)
And for the truly meta crowd: Battle of the Brackets (Salon)
And just because I love the show, here’s a Mad Men March Madness supercut – who knew the folks at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce were such basketball fans?