It’s time. March Madness, or Gladness, is here. The ink is dry on your bracket. There is no going back.

Today kicks off four of my favorite sporting days of the year. Sure, the Super Bowl, NCAA college football playoffs, World Series and NBA Finals rank up there, but to me, March Gladness checks off so many boxes of why I love sports.

The unpredictability is my favorite thing about the tournament. If the bracket held serve and followed seedings until the Final 4, what is the point of filling out a bracket in the first place. Yes, Virginia losing in the opening round last year messed up my bracket like it did everyone else’s, but it didn’t matter. I was along for the experience. No one saw it coming, which made it that much better.

The buzzer-beaters, which play into the unpredictability, are another reason I will tune in to as many games as possible. It never fails, there will be some buzzer-beaters this year. I don’t know how it happens every March, but one team’s season will end on a final shot, while another team decides it’s not quite done playing yet. When a buzzer-beater causes the roof to blow off of the arena at the game, I will say my own roof better be on tight because I will be going crazy as well.

Let’s not forget about the Cinderella stories. No matter how much studying you do or how many analytics you look at, it’s just about impossible to predict this year’s Cinderella team. Whether an 11-seed makes it to the Final 4 for the second year in a row, or there’s a 6-seed in the title game, it’ll be someone we never saw coming, until it was too late for our brackets, which will be all red by that point.

That brings me to the brackets that are the ultimate binder for the spectacle. It doesn’t matter if you’re the biggest college basketball fan, or someone who doesn’t know the difference between Iowa and Iowa State, brackets are fun to fill out and allow you to follow along with rooting interest. When we were kids, my sister was one to fill out her brackets based on teams’ colors or mascots, while I was soaking up every ounce of insight I could get, and she often had similar scores to me by the end of the tournament. That’s the best part — everyone has a chance, because no one has any idea what’s going to happen.

For those of you who have hit a dry spell in your pools, like I have, because of an uncle who always seems to pick the Final 4, or a college buddy who gets lucky on a Cinderella, this year can be your year.

No matter your picks, just be sure to enjoy these next four days of non-stop college basketball, as well as the rest of the tournament.


Erick Starkey: 740-397-5333 or and on Twitter, @mvnstarkey