You can have Christmas or summer vacation or Thanksgiving break, but right now is the most wonderful time of the year to me.
It’s March and if you’re a basketball fan, this month is sports ecstasy.
They don’t call it “March Madness” for nothing.
In just mere hours — around 6 p.m. on Sunday to be exact — the NCAA Selection Show will occur and we’ll see how the bracket looks and what teams get what seeds.
And I’ll be sitting on the edge of my seat as I have for about 35 years.
I still remember picking the national champ before the tournament in back-to-back years when I was 12 and 13 years old. In 1983 I loved North Carolina State, which was coached by Jimmy Valvano well before his famous, “Don’t give up, don’t ever give up” speech before his died of cancer.
The Wolfpack upset Houston’s “Phi Slamma Jamma” team, and the following year I picked Georgetown led by Patrick Ewing and those trademark grey t-shirts under their jerseys.
The Hoyas were the first team to wear t-shirts under basketball jerseys. Now it’s commonplace to see teams doing that.
This coming Thursday and Friday are the best days on the sports calendar, period. Better than the World Series — except if you were a Cubs fan a few months ago. Better than the Super Bowl, especially if you’re an Atlanta Falcons’ fan after watching your team choke. Better than the Stanley Cup Final, though when the Blackhawks are in it, I’m watching every minute of every game, even if I’m on vacation in Florida with my family.
The first two big days of the NCAA Tournament, though, are awesomeness personified. Like last year, I’ll be in The Game at Blue Chip Casino, eyes glued to multiple televisions, eating some stuff and drinking some stuff (probably not alcohol since I will be on the clock writing). What that stuff will be matters not. All that matters is the basketball — 16 games each day!
And like in recent years, The News-Dispatch will have its reader Bracket Contest. Make sure to clip the bracket from Monday’s sports section and make your picks.
If you want some advice from this NCAA Tournament junkie, here are teams I will be watching for on Sunday to see what region they’re in and how the brackets looks for them.
• Northwestern — The Wildcats are the feel-good story of college basketball. They fared well in the Big Ten tourney this week and have secured a spot in the NCAA Tournament for the first time ever. Coached by former Duke assistant Chris Collins, the school known more for football over the last 20 years (and some famous media graduates such as Mike Greenberg, Michael Wilbon and Mark Lazerus) will likely be a 7 or 8 seed and be very dangerous.
If the Cats are the 8-seed in the same region as No. 1 seed Gonzaga, I might pick them to upset the Zags.
• Duke — Speaking of Collins and his former school, the Blue Devils are playing well at the right time — or wrong time if you’re among the Duke haters club like myself. As long as Grayson Allen doesn’t try to punch or trip anybody, they should go a long way as a 2 or 3 seed.
• Vanderbilt — The Commodores are led by former Valparaiso coach Bryce Drew, and they’ve put together a great late-season run. Vandy has beaten ranked Florida three times to secure a spot in the field despite 14 losses, and should be a dangerous 11 or 12 seed.
They have a 7-foot-1 center in Luke Kornet who can shoot threes, and talented guards — like their coach back in the day. They may not need a last-second 3-pointer off “Pacer” to advance a couple rounds in the bracket.
• Wichita State — The Shockers will be another team seeded between 7 and 11, just like when it reached the Final Four a few years ago. They may not get that far, but an Elite Eight appearance isn’t out of the realm of possibility after winning the Missouri Valley Conference tournament.
Reach sports editor Steve T. Gorches at firstname.lastname@example.org or (219) 214-4206. Follow him on Twitter @SteveTGorches.