It was either seven years, seven weeks, or seven days ago (time has recently become an abstract concept) that the 2020 NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament—known to its friends as “March Madness”—was officially canceled.
Thursday would have been the first day of the tournament. I know that it technically starts earlier with play-in games but Thursday is when the action really gets going. It’s when there are games on from noon to midnight and with those games comes joy across the land.
Not this year, though.
It’s fitting that it’s currently raining while I’m writing this. It really fits the vibe.
Like every college basketball fan out there, I’m going to miss March Madness. I’m going to miss that tournament so damn much, and because I now have plenty of time on my hands because the outside is evil, I put together a list of 50 things I’m going to miss the most.
That’s obvious. Basketball is fun to watch and the tournament is full of it.
2. Filling out a bracket
Is it science? Is there a method to it? Are we fooling ourselves by thinking that this will be the year we really nail it?
The answer is “all of the above.”
3. Filling out multiple brackets
Only filling out one is amateur hour. I’d argue three is an acceptable minimum.
I usually have one that I fill out without much thought, one that I put together with some thought, and one I complete with the assistance of so-called “experts” who almost never get things right.
It gets a little confusing at times but I would kill for that confusion right now.
4. Convincing yourself that you should do one more bracket
It’s the one you where pick Gonzaga to win.
5. Speaking of Gonzaga: literally speaking the word Gonzaga
IT’S SUCH A FUN WORD!
6. Wondering if this is the year Duke wins it all or gets knocked out during the first weekend
It’ll be one or the other. It has to be.
That’s just how the Blue Devils roll.
7. Wondering where Murray State is located
I look it up every year but that doesn’t mean I remember.
8. Becoming a BIG fan of a new team every few days
Unless your alma mater is in the tournament, allegiances are fluid when it comes to March Madness.
9. Finding myself judging school’s bands
It could be because I like their rugby shirts or the moxie of their drummer or because those damn kids are just having a hell of a good time.
Don’t wear sunglasses, though. It makes it look like you’re trying too hard.
10. The misery of sad fans
Hey, as long as it’s not you, right?
11. Listening to Charles Barkley analyze the tournament
It’s great because it’s equal parts him having just started studying the teams two days ago and him just being Charles.
12. Reminiscing about filling brackets out by hand
This is because I’m old and that’s how we used to do it.
For the youngins out there, whoever was running the pool would make copies of the tournament taken from the local paper (remember those?) and hand them out. It was your job to get your hands on one.
If you wanted a second one, that was most likely on you.
It was then kind of entertaining to see how tattered and beaten up your bracket looked by the time the tournament ended because you had been carrying this piece of paper for almost a month. It looked like a treasure map from the 1800s that had just washed ashore.
13. Wondering where Gonzaga is (again)
They keep telling me it’s in the Pacific Northwest but it always feels like it’s somewhere in upstate New York.
14. Saying Gonzaga and really emphasizing the “zaga” part
Say it right now—Gonzaga.
It sounds like something you’d say after finishing a delicious plate of waffles or something.
15. Remembering TruTV exists
Or at least it does just for those first two rounds of the tournament. As far as I know, it shuts down after and then starts back up the next year.
16. Watching multiple games at once
It’s like Choose Your Own Adventure: Basketball Edition.
17. Taking life advice from Jay Bilas
Jay Bilas makes me want to watch more college basketball and be a better man and do more things with my life.
My dude’s Twitter account is also low-key fantastic too.
He also follows zero people. Zero. No one. He has 1.9 million followers and doesn’t follow a single one of them back.
That is simply a boss move.
18. Upsets, baby!
They’re so much fun!
The last big one was in 2018 when UMBC (a 16 seed) beat top-seeded Virginia. That had never happened before. Some teams had come close but were never able to finish on top.
It was dope.
Unless you had Virginia winning. Then it was very much not dope.
19. Remembering Michigan State is always a safe bet
I had already penciled them into the Final Four before the tournament ended up being canceled.
20. Chuckling at sweaty coaches
Looking at you, Sean Miller.
You sweaty mess of a man, you.
21. Going 11 for 12 on the first day
Man, it’s a great feeling (albeit one that can have a tendency to mess with you and make you think that this might be the year you actually win).
You’re not going to win, though. Carol from Accounting is. She just picked based on schools she’s heard of and ones she hasn’t.
Life isn’t fair.
22. Listening to my dad go off about Roy Williams
My Dad hates Roy Williams. Hates him! I think it’s Old Roy’s smugness that gets to him the most.
My dad also hates smugness, and for the hell of it, here are five other things he hates:
- When players don’t live up to his expectations
- When baseball players take their eye off the ball
- When I’d scroll through channels too fast when I was a kid
- People who pay for car washes
- When people refer to people from Maine as “Maniacs.”
Other than those, he likes most things but fucking hates Roy Williams.
23. Watching commercials for TNT shows I’ll never watch
They all sound, look, and feel like fake shows like the one Kristen Bell’s character starred on in Forgetting Sarah Marshall.
24. Playing “Hey, It’s That Guy!” with coaches
I’m talking about the ones you couldn’t name with a gun to your head but somehow remember they coached Florida Atlantic two years ago or VCU when they upset Kansas in 2011.
25. NO REALLY, SAYING GONZAGA IS A LOT OF FUN!
We need to figure out a way to use this word more in our daily lives.
Like “Oof, that meeting Gonzagaed the shit out of me” or “We’re gonna go out and get Gonzagaed tonight.
26. Appreciating the joys of watching a Cinderella storm through the tournament
I’m a sucker for a feel-good story and there are few that are better than a small school in the middle of nowhere taking down one of the real battleships of college basketball.
27. Being kind of relieved that a Cinderella lost before the championship
Feel-good stories are great, but at a certain point, you just want to watch the two best teams play for the title. Pluckiness and grit aside, the Cinderella team is rarely one of the two best teams in the country.
It’s true. You know it, I know it, and even they know it.
28. Remembering that time my roommate got confused with the seeds
I love her. She’s great but one year she got a little confused.
She thought that if a team had a higher number (like a 16 next to their name) that meant they were better than a team with a lower one. As a result, her Final Four consisted of two 16 seeds and a 15
That fourth team? I think it was Kansas or another one seed, which—based on her rationale—had to pull off some upsets to get there.
She had them losing to Jackson State, though.
29. Knowing full well that the second weekend is better than the first
Everyone always talks about how great those first few days of the tournament are but I’m not so sure. Yes, they’re great from a quantity standpoint but not so much from a quality standpoint.
How many games are usually close? Two or three?
That’s why I like the second weekend better. There are still a lot of contents being played and the chances of more of those games being good and competitive are much higher than that first weekend.
I appreciate the fun of the first weekend but I respect the second weekend so much more.
30. Having something to talk about with those few coworkers I never talk to
Like Carol from Accounting, Dan from IT, or that guy in the next office whose name I always forget.
I think it’s John. It could be Matt, though.
31. Remembering that one year I almost won a pool
Texas, man. If Texas had won, I would have won. However, they didn’t and neither did I.
If it weren’t for Friday Night Lights, Gary Clark Jr., and Mike Leech’s time at Texas Tech, that state would be dead to me.
32. Realizing my Duke fandom all stems back to me liking the color blue as a kid
That’s it. That’s why.
I grew up in the era of Starter jackets, and when I got mine, I wanted a blue one and the Duke one was blue.
33. Remembering that Christian Laettner hitting that shot was pretty sick
I even remember where I was when it happened and I don’t remember anything.
34. Watching so much basketball I start to think I’m better at basketball than I really am
Delusion is a fickle son of a bitch.
35. Remembering I’m TERRIBLE at basketball
A fun fact about me is that I just can’t dribble very well, which is a bit of a barrier to entry.
36. Becoming a giant Gonzaga fan
It’s just so much fun!
37. Witnessing a frantic comeback
I mean, this applies to all sports, so it’s not limited to March Madness.
However, a frantic March Madness comeback is a lot of fun.
I like how you can feel it coming; how you can sense the tide turning and the momentum changing. I like how you can look at the eyes of the players on the team who know their opponents are getting hot and see that they just know shit is about to get weird and that they’re powerless to stop it.
It will never, ever get old.
38. Fans making a half-court shot
What’s funny about these is that you only hear about them if they make it or totally biff it and don’t even come close. There’s not much middle ground when it comes to highlights of half-court shots.
I often wonder how I’d approach taking one; how much of a running start I’d need and what my form would be.
I wouldn’t make it but I’d definitely think I could (especially if I just got done watching a bunch of basketball).
39. Being annoyed that the Final Four takes place in a stadium
Basketball should be played in gyms or arenas, not stadiums. Fans should be on top of the court instead of the other way around.
I don’t like the floating court look during the last couple of rounds because it has to be elevated so everyone can see. It all feels too performative. It doesn’t feel real.
I know that a lot of people want to go to these games but I’m just not a fan, guys. Not a fan at all.
40. Finding myself shocked that someone like Virginia is a one seed even though I didn’t watch any college basketball that year
I didn’t watch anything so, therefore, I don’t have much ground to stand on when it comes to being surprised a team is ranked where it is. I don’t know anything, man!
Still, though, I always find myself surprised at certain seedings. Why? I’m not entirely sure. I just know it happens.
41. Bench celebrations
Are these dudes who barely play maybe just looking for some attention?
Yeah, probably. Good for them, though.
42. Listening to Bill Raftery
Raftery’s voice is the voice of March Madness. Dick Vitale or anyone else is fighting for second place. I love listening to Raftery call a game and chances are you do too.
Here’s a ranking of Raftery’s five best catchphrases:
- “A little kiss!”
- “Lingerie on the deck!”
- “Get those puppies organized”
- “A nickel-and-dimer”
I wish Raftery could provide color commentary to my current self-isolation.
“Oh no, he’s thinking about cracking a beer before noon. Look out now, big fella!”
43. Becoming a BIG fan of a team and then never thinking about them again
Just not Texas. They’re dead to me.
Doing this is kind of like an ill-advised one-night stand—we had our fun, but now we’re going to go our separate ways.
It’s for the best.
44. Saying things like “You know, I’ve always liked Syracuse”
Or “I just believe in Tom Izzo” or “I’m big on Bruce Pearl regardless of the scandals.”
45. Thinking it’s kind of funny over half of March Madness takes place in April
It’s like how Major League Baseball still acts like their playoffs happen in October when the World Series has a tendency to end on the day before Thanksgiving.
46. Wondering how the hell these dudes find time to go to class
This is just one of life’s many mysteries.
47. Not knowing what a foul is
I honestly have no clue what constitutes a foul in basketball these days (whether it’s at the pro level or in college). I know what a foul looks like but also know that it might not be a foul or it could be a foul depending on the player or the ref.
I know fouls are dumb and I know that I don’t like it when refs “swallow their whistle” and let them play. Either we have rules or we don’t have rules.
Rest assured that even though I don’t know what exactly a foul is, it’s not stopping me from getting upset when one is or isn’t called. I don’t need facts or logic when sports emotions are involved, thank you very much.
48. Rooting for Vermont
They don’t always make the tournament but it’s always kind of fun when they do.
For starters, their nickname is the Catamounts and Catamounts (like Gonzaga) is a fun word to say.
Also, Vermont always seems to be led by a big goofy white dude and it’s always entertaining to watch a big goofy white dude play basketball.
Plus it’s Vermont. Who doesn’t like Vermont? Vermont is great.
49. Watching games at work
It’s cool. Trust me, your boss is fine with it even if they act like they’re not.
They’re probably watching too.
50. Say it with me one more time: GONZAGA!!!
It might be one of the most fun words to say in the English language (as opposed to “quarantine,” which is rapidly becoming one of the least fun).
See you next year, March Madness.