It’s the time of year again where the laptops scattered around lecture display a split-screen of the overlapping basketball games. The time where the ESPN alert makes the surrounding crowd flinch as if they missed something. The time where the rest of the world gradually becomes less and less important as college basketball fans tune into the annual NCAA tournament.
Nothing describes March Madness quite like the difficulties that come along with one of the most crucial aspects of the NCAA tournament: picking your bracket. While strategically predicting the upsets, you must also slyly choose the unexpected victors. Whether you pick your bracket based on record, randomness, jersey color, mascot, or whoever you don’t hate that year, a lot of thought goes into this process. Which number one seed will be eliminated in the second round? Which underdog will make it to the final four? Who do you rely on to carry your bracket to the championship? But the selection of brackets isn’t the only reason the country huddles around any visible TV as the clocks wind down, the winning teams advance, and the losing teams are sent home. When it comes down to it, every college basketball fan must make the decision: do you cheer for your favorite team, perhaps your own school, regardless of their chances of winning? Or do you cheer for whichever team contributes to your bracket?
My mom, despite her lack of knowledge on sports, doesn’t have to make this choice. Although she could’ve used some help picking her bracket, she chooses her alma mater to win it all, regardless of their seed.
Predicting your team to lose can be a challenge — you want your bracket to be victorious, but don’t you want your team to win as well? The rest of my family seemed to take after our mom, as we watched our team, Wisconsin, face the number one seed, Villanova. Even though all six of us picked Villanova to win, we cheered for the Badgers relentlessly. In the end, our brackets suffered, but it was painless. Our own team’s victory seemed to outweigh the busted brackets.
You may not let your emotions get in the way of who you pick to win, but even if it’s silent, cheering for your favorite team is one of the only facets that keeps college from becoming a gambling tournament. However, as the final four approaches and you see yourself towards the top of your pool, hoping for your team to lose to benefit to your bracket seems more and more justified. Savor the concluding games of the tournament, whether you’re cheering for your own team, the team you bet on, or the underdog—and may the best team win.