It’s time for NCAA excitement

It’s time for March Madness!

Some of the best teams in college basketball are the focus of the country right now as they battle it out to become the national champion.

Like many places in the last few days, televisions in our newsroom have been tuned in to the tournament, and some of us have filled out a bracket.

As long-time readers probably remember, I’ve never been big on sports, couldn’t tell you the records of any teams without looking them up, and really have no idea what the actual skill level of any of these players might be. I still filled a bracket out, and as of early Saturday afternoon was doing half-way decent.

I doubt it will last, but you never know.

The closest thing to a local favorite is probably Ohio State, although I don’t have them going beyond the second round. I’ll know whether I picked that one correctly by the time you’re reading this column.

It’s been an interesting tournament, so far. I’m don’t know that anyone would have predicted Woffard winning its first round game, although I’m starting to notice a trend when a team appears on the Today show prior to the start of the tournament. They tend to surprise people.

Filling out a bracket and watching the games can be a fun activity for anyone who is interested, no matter how much of a fan of basketball they may be. It also can be a little competitive, especially if there happen to be a few wagers among a group of people.

I filled out my first bracket in college, and it was just for fun. In my 20s, there was a group of us that would fill them out and the winner received lunch which was paid for by the rest of us.

These days, there are new elements to all of that.

Gambling on sports has become legal in much of the country, and several states have begun using electronic devices and apps and more to allow the placing of bets. Now, of course, there are arguments about whether betting should be allowed on college sports as opposed to professional sports, but it’s also something we know has been going on for years…just not legally.

But that’s probably raising the profile of this year’s tournament even more as there are those who might normally not have been paying attention but are now because they think there might be an opportunity to make some money on it.

For most, though, the NCAA tournament, and to a lesser extent, the NIT, is about the excitement of basketball. It’s about see potential future professional players or those who might be reaching the pinnacle of their careers before they move on the join the workforce.

It’s the story of the underdogs taking on the national favorite. It’s the story of the so-called Cinderella team that comes out of nowhere an make it to the national championship game. It’s cheering on your favorite team or watching the annual powerhouse as they mow through the competition.

It’s two weeks of excitement that much of the nation finds itself wrapped up in, as people gather around in their living rooms, at their offices or at their favorite bar or restaurant to hang out, and watch a game.

I’ve never been athletic, although there have been a few attempts at some pick-up games or just shooting a few baskets. That’s just for fun. These are people who are skilled at the game, putting on a show for the rest of us to enjoy, showing their abilities in the hope of getting that ultimate prize at the collegiate level of athletics.

The rest of us get to just sit back, maybe throw a few parties, and watch the show.

So, no, there won’t be any WVU Mountaineers or Pitt Panthers getting the NCAA title.

There’s always next year for them, of course.

Until then, just enjoy the madness.

(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)

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