The Edge of Madness

“I don’t often watch college basketball, but when I do I make sure it’s in March.”

They don’t call it March Madness for nothing. It’s that time of year again when everything seems possible, when a bottom-dwelling team can run the tables in its league tournament and end up getting a seat at the big table. Because there’s a field of 64, and everyone — I mean everyone — is trying to get in and shake things up.

Kansas.gifThis year Kansas should arrive at the big dance as the #1 team in the nation, but that’s pretty much the only certainty in college basketball at this time of year. The other 3 #1 seeds are up for grabs, the bottom of the field is definitely not set yet, and there is already at least 1 team with a losing record that will make it in. So yes, madness is certainly an accurate moniker for what’s about to go down.

And with March Madness comes the Bracket Challenge, a chance for the regular guy (or girl) to catch lightning in a bottle and emerge just as much a winner as whichever teams actually make the Final Four. Well, at least it will seem that way. Don’t get me wrong. The Bracket Challenge is a virtual minefield, and you’ll be kicking yourself 12 ways from Sunday when the team you pick loses a 1-point game in overtime to destroy your whole bracket.

Ouch.

I’m a veteran of the Bracket Challenge, and I’ve never seen a year where everything is quite as wide open as this year’s edition looks like it’s going to be. There are no less than 10 teams that have a legitimate shot at taking home the title, and a host more that have a good chance at reaching the Final Four. That means being careful about who you pick, which upsets you hang your hat on, and how far you really want to advance the top seeds and still feel confident.

As of this Sunday night — the Selection Show — the team names will be known, and they will automatically populate the 8 brackets I’ll have going simultaneously this year. That’s when I’ll begin to evaluate each game in the round of 64 and start building each bracket from the ground up. It’s a tedious job, but it’s also exhilarating, hopefully finding the next Cinderella team, and taking as many risks as I can without killing my brackets. It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it.

And I’ll be here to help you decide who to pick all the way up to the Final Four and the Championship Game itself. But until then sign up for one of the many bracket games that are around. I use ESPN and CBSSPORTS for my 8 brackets because they’re easy to sign up for, easier to use, and their apps are easy to access on my phone. So sign up, join a group, and watch the Selection Show on Sunday.

Once the bracket is fully set I’ll let you know who to go with, what risk to take, and what the safest path is to ultimate glory. Stay tuned.

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