Hoop Dreams: The Modern Gal’s Guide To March Madness

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MMEmbedIt’s that time of year again...when your coworkers’ eyes ogle at scores on computer screens, agony and/or ecstasy plastered on their faces. Ratty college sweatshirts, rally towels, and beer-steins-as-coffee-mugs come out of nowhere. Yes, friends, March 19 marks the start of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament, a.k.a. The Big Dance, a.k.a. March Madness.

And while you might not give a lick about college sports, we're always up for a little friendly competition and some great American cultural phenomena. So, despite your cool indifference, read on and get primed for this year’s tourney. Game face ON.

Why do I care again?
College basketball has seen some major moments, historically: It’s a tradition that’s transcended racism, introduced the world to some of the best athletes ever, and shown us to never doubt the underdog. And, you also get a first glimpse at some of the future NBA superstars before they go pro and before they start making ridiculous heaps of money, bad choices, and reality shows.

How does it work?
Of the hundreds of college basketball teams across the country, only 68 are chosen and then ranked, or “seeded,” and divided into four regions, or “brackets.” In single elimination rounds, teams advance from Round 1 to Round 2, to the “Sweet Sixteen,” the “Elite Eight,” and to the coveted “Final Four." The final two teams face off in the Championship game, FTW. Epic!

Okay, great, but I know nothing about college basketball. Like, nothing.
Here, we present to you an abridged glossary of important terminology that you can throw around at the bar, in case some superfan might be listening…

Brackets: Family tree-like branches that represent each region and show who plays who and when, giving the full visual of the tourney. Everyone you know is “filling out a bracket,” which means they’re predicting the winners of all 67 games. Bracketology is the careful study of said brackets. Print your own and join along.

Cinderella Story: Refers to an underdog team that advances beyond what was expected of them, creating a media and fan buzz.

Boeheim, Bzdelik, Calipari, Krzyzewski, Pitino: These are important, if slightly difficult, names. Know thy coaches. And please bone up on correct pronunciation (note: You can abbreviate to “Coach K” if “Krzyzewski” proves too much tongue torment).

NIT: The National Invitational Tournament, managed subsequently by the NCAA. Often considered a “consolation” for the 32 teams that didn’t make it to the Big Dance; sometimes mocked as the “Not Invited Tournament.”

“One Shining Moment”: Appropriately cheesy and tear-jerking song and video montage of tourney's highlights, sung by Luther Vandross. Don’t miss.

Selection Sunday: The holiest of days for b-ball fanatics, when the 68 teams are selected, seeded, and announced to the public. Selection Sunday is March 17.

How do I watch?
All 67 games are broadcast on CBS, TBS, TNT, and truTV from March 19 to April 8.

But I still don’t care about basketball.
Do you care about winning? Like, one million dollars? Pick a team, any team, to win it all. Enter CBS Sports’ Bracket Challenge, Yahoo!’s Tourney Pick ‘Em, ESPN’s Tournament Challenge, or a slew of other online opportunities for chances at sweet prizes. Who knows: Even your random, apathetic selections could land you in the winner’s circle.

And don’t forget about the ladies. The NCAA Women’s Tournament, though grossly overlooked and underrepresented, still rivals the men’s tourney in drama and passion. Watch them battle it out on ESPN. Support your sisters!

Photo: Via NCAA