March Madness has been underway for about a week (Why March Madness bleeds into April every year is beyond me). Bracket busts, Cinderella stories, and demonizing Duke have become ritual for college basketball fans, and this tradition takes hold of students around Hillsdale as well.
What makes March Madness fun?
Is it the magic of the month? The final, frenzied stretch of a beloved collegiate sport packed with action, a place where stars are born and dynasties are made? The sudden relevance of statistics, crunching numbers and comparing percentages? Maybe.
For some it’s the brackets, to play the expert for a week while crafting the perfect bracket and then watching it all crash and burn. For others, it’s the excitement. Junior Clayton VanderLaan said he’s in it for the thrill the tournament provides.
“When you have that many games packed into such a tight space, you’re going to have some tight games and crazy moments, even between two teams that are evenly matched,” he said. “That’s just as exciting to watch as the upsets that everyone talks about.”
March Madness comes witha distilled form of pure frenzy that all sports try so hard to capture. Regardless of the odds, something crazy is going to happen this month. There will be some epic moment that will embed itself into the history of basketball forever, something everyone wants to be a part of. If not the 16 seed over the tournament favorite, which has only happened once before, it’s the crazy ending to a coin-flip odds game.
It’s University of Maryland Baltimore County over Virginia. It’s Loyola-Chicago in the Final Four. It’s crowding around tables in AJ’s or Saga streaming the games on phones. It’s being there for the journey to the Final Four, and then those games, too.
What goes into the perfect bracket?
Amazingly, some students have enough time to make multiple brackets. Senior Hung Luong has five, one for upsets, etc. But in the ‘main’ bracket, strategies can sometimes be scientific or based on what you’ve learned from past years.
“My bracket revolves around conference play,” VanderLaan said. “You could have really good teams out of the SEC, but you could have four teams in the ACC that will all be better than the best team in the SEC.”
This year, seemingly more than others, a battle of players more than coaching schemes has the potential to make or break your bracket. All the scheming in the world in the early rounds will only do so much. As the teams get deeper into the tournament the question really comes down to whether Duke’s Zion Williamson is worth all the hype.
“I have Duke winning it all. It’s really just because of Zion,” Troyke said. “I know Clayton disagrees with me on that, but I don’t care enough about Zion to argue about it.”
Freshman Jack Goelke, a basketball player for Hillsdale, takes a more informed approach than VanderLaan and Troyke.
“I watch a lot of basketball during the season, so I have a pretty good feel for the teams. I usually take three or four upsets in the first round and take the higher seed for the most part,” he said
He said his bracket is doing pretty well this year, a bracket that has three one seeds, Virginia, North Carolina, and Duke, and a two seed, Michigan, in the Final Four.
“It’s a win-win if my bracket busts,” he said. “Either my bracket does well or a cinderella team makes the final four and it’s fun to watch.”
VanderLaan can’t separate doing well with his bracket and enjoying a good game the way Goelke can.
“Honestly, I don’t like making brackets sometimes because I love to root for the underdogs and the upsets,” VanderLaan said. “But if I’m making an accurate bracket then I’m caught between wanting to root for the underdog and root for my bracket, so I can’t fully enjoy the games as much.”
In any case, March Madness is in full swing and everyone’s watching. Whether you have money on the line or just want to see something spectacular on the court, there are plenty of reasons to tune in.