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Let The Madness Begin

Let The Madness Begin

The Men’s NCAA Tournament Kicks off Tuesday in Dayton.

Cough, cough! Ugh, that mid-March bug is hitting me already. It’s not too burdensome yet, but I think by Thursday I’ll be down for the count. May have to call off work the last couple days of the week. I swear it’s legit. Has nothing to do with wall to wall basketball in the form of the NCAA tournament starting this week, kicking off one of the best times of the year for a sports fan.

Alright, okay, I’m fine. And so are the millions upon millions of our fellow Americans that also will be calling in “sick” this week to enjoy hours and hours of March Madness.

The NCAA tournament kicks off Tuesday and Wednesday nights in Dayton, Ohio with play-in games to decipher the last four teams that will qualify for the proverbial field of 64. Once Thursday morning hits, the greatest weekend of the calendar year is off and running.

Regardless if your school made the tourney or not, there is a Cinderella at the ball for everyone waiting to be asked to dance. Even if your squad disappoints you, it’s okay for once to hop on a bandwagon and enjoy the ride to the Final Four.

Despite being home to a dozen Division I programs, Tennessee will have only one darling at the dance this season. UT looks to finally have their breakthrough by marching to their first ever Final Four in Phoenix. Although a 2-seed, the road ahead is daunting. On Thursday, the Vols will tip off in Charlotte against 15-seed St. Peter’s who is no stranger to shocking the world during March. Just two tourneys ago they were a 15-seed and stunned #2 Kentucky in the opening round. If Tennessee comes out as flat as they did in the SEC Quarterfinals, they could be heading home early. If they are lucky enough to advance, juggernauts the likes of Creighton and Purdue could stand in their way.

As much as I’d love to see the Vols go the distance, I would not be wagering much on them advancing deep with how loaded their bracket is in the Midwest Region. However, the tournament often tends to be a loose cannon and with ever growing parity, it has become increasingly more unpredictable over the last decade. 

That won’t stop fans from betting a projected $2.72 billion - yeah, that’s right, I said billion with a “b” - on this year’s NCAA tournament (Source: OutKick). As online sports gambling becomes legal in more states for individuals 21+, the dollar amount invested into March Madness has exploded. Thirty-five countries don’t even have a nominal GDP of $2.72bn! It’s good to be in America where casual citizens can bet that much on a college sports tournament.

You can count me out of placing a single dime on this year’s bracket as I know I’d lose out almost immediately. Yet, that does not stop me from having my, perhaps misguided, picks for who is going all the way.

Give me UConn in the East Region, Houston in the South, Creighton (sorry, UT) in the Midwest, and my stunner… New Mexico in the West. As much as I hate it, I see UConn repeating as national champions. Too much talent, too much experience to pick against these boys.

Buckle in! The next three weeks are going to get wild!