How to make NCAA hoops tourney twice the fun |

How to make NCAA hoops tourney twice the fun

Summit Daily file photoDevon O'Neil

Following the first day of the NCAA basketball tournament is like trying to read every car’s license plate as it passes you on the freeway.You sit in front of the TV screen and hold back your blinks as the scores change on top and the chosen game unfolds below them. It is a draining process, yes, but you get to bet money beforehand which gives meaning to your addiction.What I’ve found in my years of filling out brackets is that the people who don’t enter a “friendly” (yeah, and Paris Hilton’s brilliant) tournament pool are the same ones who can look away from the TV screen on days like Thursday. Sadly, I am not one of them.In years past one pool has been enough. One bracket to follow, one $5 bill to dole out. I’ve never won any money, but I’ve always stayed in the hunt at least long enough to feel like I got my $5 bill’s worth.

I was all set to follow that routine again this year. Paid my $5 for the company contest, filled out my bracket. Then a friend called. Said he and a coworker were putting together a pool. Ten bucks gets you in, winner probably takes home $600 or $700, he said. I told him I was in. I swear, it’s not about the money.What I didn’t foresee as I filled out the second bracket was the way it would change my Thursday and Friday. Nobody who’s anybody in the college-hoops-devotee world fills out two brackets with the same picks. Thus, slight tweaks here and there left me double the rooting to do in the first round.The day began with 11th-seeded Wisconsin-Milwaukee matching up against No. 6 Oklahoma. Easy pick, right? The Sooners disappointed this year in the Big 12, and those cheese-eatin’ Panthers from the Horizon League always seem to play their best in March. The TV said 11 was beating 6 by 9.

Yes! Go Panthers!Then … Oh, crap. Oklahoma went on a sudden run. UW-M looked tired. Yes! Go Sooners!This, my friends, is what filling out two brackets is all about: not losing either way. In the few hours that passed between bracket No. 1 and bracket No. 2, I had apparently lost faith in the Panthers’ upset hopes.

The madness was just beginning. In the two hours that followed, I would simultaneously root for and against Montana/Nevada, Wichita State/Seton Hall and Marquette/Alabama. I felt like a total traitor every time the scores took a swing – except I couldn’t figure out which side I was betraying.The NCAA tournament, above all ties, one way or another, is about excitement. It’s about rooting for No. 4-seeded Boston College to hold on so your bracket doesn’t go up in smoke on Day 1, but it’s also about rooting for 13th-seeded Pacific to somehow find a way to pull through in double OT, and upset BC for the David in us all.Unless, that is, you have BC winning in both your pools. Then you hope David can feel good about his terrific effort.Devon O’Neil can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 13630, or at

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