A Beginner’s Guide to March Madness for the Casual Basketball Fan


March Madness is almost here bringing with it anticipation and excitement. Prepare to be introduced to the ma-ma-ma-ma madness.

Every year hardcore and casual basketball fans alike try to jam in an entire season of information into a few days to create the perfect March Madness bracket. Serious fans will have already watched dozens of games not only played by their favorite team, but also games from around the country. They have followed the rankings and listened to the analyst’s breakdown each team. They have seen teams grow throughout the year and also fall apart due to injury. They also will have been on the lookout for possible Cinderella stories.

For the rest of the country they have just jumped on the bandwagon after the official bracket was released March 16th. They will now undoubtedly search the web for predictions then base their picks off of that. Perhaps others will take the bold route and just pick based off of their intuition. Old folks may pick teams that were good “back in the day” (which this year might not be a bad option). Some may pick teams that have the slickest jerseys, or the team with the most ferocious mascot. Some girls may want to take a team that has an attractive player. In this article a casual fan will discover how to make a respectable bracket, or at least have fun making one.

A primer on the tournament:

So March Madness consists of 68 teams (previously 64) where there are four play in games which do not really count as part of the tournament. Basically they just added them on so that more teams get into the tournament and get to tell their kids that they lost by 30 to Florida, Kentucky, ect. The real tournament starts when there are 64 teams left. You should do a simple search for a printable March Madness bracket then print a few out (you will likely want more than one in case of errors).


Now you have a bracket in front of you, and depending on how much prior basketball knowledge you have, you may be able to pick a few games already. The 64 teams are each ranked 1-16 based on their regular season schedule. There are four different regions where they play games: Midwest, South, East, and West. Each region has a 1-16 seed. In the entire tournament there are four teams with a one seed, four with a two seed, and so on. The one seed from each region is generally geographically close to where the game is being played. For example Florida (the overall one seed) is playing in Memphis, TN instead of one of the other locations such as New York, Indianapolis, or Anaheim.

You have now obtained sufficient background knowledge on the NCAA tournament and are ready to pick some games. For starters, the one seed has never lost to the 16 seed in the tournament, so unless you like to live on the wild side; just pencil those games in. Generally you do not want to pick completely according to the seeds, but you also do not want to have a 15 seed, for example, go to the final four because historically it just does not happen. You need to walk the line between picking the favorites and picking upsets. Just search the internet for basketball junkies that will be able to provide picks and reasons to back them up if you are unsure. Look at team’s schedules to see whether they have beaten good completion or if they have been playing high school teams all year. Also, make sure to scope out the teams that are hot and have just won a conference title. The NCAA tournament is not always about the best team; it is about the hottest team.


On a side note it is exhilarating to pick a “Cinderella” team and watch them make a deep run. Three teams to look for are Providence, Saint Joseph’s, and Mercer.  Truly there is no greater joy than bragging to your friends about how much you know about college basketball for a few days while your upset pick is playing lights out. You may want to consider; however, not picking them to go all the way so you can root for them up until the elite eight then not lose your dignity if they lose as well. If you pick too many upsets and they do not pan out, then your bracket will be completely ruined. It is not a bad idea to ask your friends to look at their bracket and talk through some of the picks.

Ok, you have a completed bracket with a few upsets, and you know who you will be rooting for. It’s no fun to just have your bracket and follow it by yourself; you should do something with it. Warren Buffet has teamed up with Quicken Loans to offer a billion dollars to anyone who makes a perfect bracket. However, the odds are about 1 in a quintillion, meaning that if you filled out 100 brackets per year it could take you 13 million years to win, and what are you really going to do with the money when you are that old. Your odds to win the Powerball are 1 in 125 million. It’s fun to dream though. Of course there are more practical things to do with your bracket.  Ask around and you will be sure to find a group of people who are holding a competition with their brackets. Often there is a point system to each round, for example; a win in the first round will be worth one point and the second round worth two points and so on. Do not bet money on it though. Betting is illegal and being illegal is bad.

March Madness is a time for diehard fans and casual fans alike to get together and root for the teams they picked. So print out a bracket, fill it out, find some friends, and win a billion dollars. Follow the Cinderella stories, and preach about fundamentals to your friends. Watch the games using more effort than you put forth in your study hall, and overall be a basketball fan for half a month because you do not need know everything about college basketball to enjoy March Madness.