When you love March Madness but don’t follow NCAA basketball

Published On April 9, 2013 | By Jill Saftel

Now that March Madness has officially ended, I can say this with confidence. My bracket was busted. Like, really, really busted.

As the first round of 64 teams began, I got off to a great start. I misguidedly taunted a friend because my picks were at 83.9 percent and his were at 1.3 percent.

I ended with 22.1 percent, and he won our pool. Karma? I think so.

But then again, I don’t really know much about college basketball. It’s just not my sport. College hockey, sure, I could rattle off stats and storylines on the Frozen Four for days. (For what it’s worth, my NCAA hockey tourney bracket has already been seriously busted as well. Thanks, Yale for winning and Boston College for losing.)

So why did I bother filling out a bracket? I made my picks in two minutes without putting much thought into them. I easily could have looked up teams records against one another and made some less ill-advised decisions.

Instead, I made picks like Virginia Commonwealth University, who I chose to win it all simply based on the fact that they used to be a Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) team and I attend a CAA university, so it seemed like a nice little homage to our conference.

It got me thinking, why do we have such an obsession with brackets?

Surely, there’s a competitive aspect to it. I love to win, and as soon as I saw how well I was doing in our pool early on, I checked ESPN compulsively to see just how good things could get before Georgetown’s loss to Florida Gulf Coast University sent my bracket, along with almost everyone else’s, into oblivion.

But really, brackets are just another way we make sports social and connect with a sporting event on a personal level. I’m not saying watching all the games isn’t the main attraction, because it is. It’s awesome. But part of what makes it so awesome is how many people are deeply invested in it. My team didn’t make it to the tournament, but I had a whole bunch of teams to root for anyway because my bracket’s success depended upon them winning.

March Madness is what it is because the whole nation gets involved, which brings me to my next point: if only it could be the same for college hockey.

College hockey is growing, and while its tournament is formatted much differently than the NCAA basketball tournament (first round of 16 with four teams at four different regionals, with winners traveling to the Frozen Four to compete for the national title in one weekend), that doesn’t mean it can’t someday garner some significant attention.

Part of the reason I love March Madness is its inevitable storylines. This year we had a Cinderella in Florida Gulf Coast and a hero to rally behind in Kevin Ware.

You get that in college hockey too. No one expected Yale to be in Pittsburgh for the Frozen Four this weekend. All the Frozen Four teams have something to prove, and for Quinnipiac, St. Cloud State and Lowell, it’s their first time making it this far.

Of course, with college hockey, there are plenty of bracket challenges to enter so you can brag to your friends when the team you picked comes out of Pittsburgh with rings on its players’ fingers.

If you love the NCAA basketball tournament and everything that comes with it, give the Frozen Four a try this weekend. There’s no more college basketball to watch and let’s be honest, what’s really cooler than guys running around on ice?

And if you were wondering, my Frozen Four bracket isn’t completely busted yet. Lowell is my lone standing pick to make it to Pittsburgh, and luckily for me, I picked them to win it all.

Go River Hawks.

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About The Author

Jill studies journalism at Northeastern University, covers Hockey East for College Hockey News and is the sports editor for The Huntington News. You can follow her on Twitter at @jillsaftel, just don't ask her to choose between hockey and baseball, it's impossible.