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  • Jim Gazzolo

Move Over, Cinderella – It’s Time for the Basketball Bracket-Busting Month of March

Basketball on a court alongside and empty March Madness bracket form

Eleven months out of every year, Cinderella is a fairytale about a young girl who finds her prince, despite a lifetime of drama, and lives happily ever after. 


But not in March. 


For this one month each spring, as the weather begins to warm and flowers start to bloom, Cinderella exchanges her glass slippers and long dress for a pair of high-top sneakers and baggy shorts. 


She also leaves the Prince’s Ball for the Big Dance as her pumpkin turns from a horse-drawn carriage into a basketball. 


For it is March when all the madness begins. 


“This is the best time of the year if you love college basketball,” said Will Wade, coach of McNeese State’s (in Louisiana) basketball team.  


“This is where you can make a name for yourself, and heroes come out of nowhere.” Wade should know, he might just be writing the biggest Cinderella story this season, one with drama, surprise, and maybe even some evil foes.  


Wade is the former Louisiana State University (LSU) basketball coach who was fired for recruiting violations and now heads up the biggest possible comeback story in the game. And his team of unknowns is what makes the upcoming NCAA Tournament so special to so many. 


But what really makes this an event, and brings fans and non-fans together, is the filling out of brackets, the one Wade and his players hope to be a part of for the first time since 2002. 


All the drama will begin on Selection Sunday (March 17) when the committee decides the fate of college teams that have been playing games since last fall. 


Moving teams around like chess pieces on the board, the selection committee looks to find the right games and sites for what they hope makes the tournament great. By that night, all the teams know where they are going, and the ones on the “bubble” have found out if they are in or if their dreams have been burst. 


The tournament is a three-week reality show played out on television sets all over the country, and fans can participate with the ease of filling out a basketball bracket. 

Two couples watching basketball tournament on tv

It’s those brackets that make March so maddening. 


Starting the following Monday, diehard fans, casual followers, and folks who just want to be a part of the fun join groups and make their picks in hopes of guessing the winning teams up and down the bracket. 


Some believe they know better, or have inside information, but they don’t. You can throw darts at the names of competing schools on the wall and get just as good odds. 


I know; I’ve tried.  


I’ve tried just about everything to get an edge in hopes of picking the winning bracket. You name it, I’ve tried it. 


Random Approaches to Basketball Bracket Building 


I’d made my picks from years of watching college basketball, and I thought I knew what I was doing, and finished dead last.   


It was the most embarrassing of all years. Picked on by friends for months, I vowed the 2007 season would be the final picks I would ever make. That lasted until March of 2008. 


Once I put together data from a full season of collecting numbers and hardly managed to get out of the first weekend with a chance of winning. Lots of work, little joy. That was 1996. 


Another year I joined an internet challenge and produced multiple brackets under made-up names and didn’t come close on any. A wasted 2017. 

A woman and man who is holding a basketball looking upset while watching basketball on tv

There was 1994 when the idea of choosing the prettiest college colors to win each round failed. The lost season of 2019 came and went when the play was to pick the more ferocious team mascot to win. 


That came to a screeching halt in the first round when the Anteaters knocked off the Wildcats. Figuring that Anteaters picked on ants, I thought that was a safe pick. 


Then there was the famous Lucky Bracket back in 1997. 


Lucky was the family dog and since recent picks had been so bad, the pet was given a chance to pick the winners. For each game, Lucky was given two bowls of food to choose from. The higher-seeded teams were given the red bowl, the lower seeds the blue. 


Whichever bowl Lucky picked to eat from got the win and advanced in the bracket. 


Lucky finished fourth in a group of 26. Somewhat embarrassed, I must admit she placed five spots higher than my own bracket. I took it as a mild victory.  


(Author's Note: I actually won a bracket in 1983 when NC State upset #1 seed Georgetown – who knew what a Hoya was!) 


Back to Reality of 2024 

Cinderella crown and basketball next to a blank NCAA men's basketball bracket form.

This year could be different. This March I’m going with my own Cinderella story, one that gives up to the underdog as I root to bring down some of the mighty names in college basketball.  


The only truth about filling out a bracket is nobody has inside information. Everybody is guessing.  


You can take the bigger names, better colors, or best uniforms and have just as good a chance at winning and losing as a coin flip. 


So, enjoy the buzzer-beaters that both lift your bracket or sink it, just don’t let it ruin your enjoyment of the best three weeks in sports.  


And don’t forget to look for your own Cinderella story, one that you can talk about to impress your friends and coworkers and not the one that loses its glass slipper at the clock strikes midnight in the first round.

March Madness 2024 kicks off on Selection Sunday, March 17. Print a downloadable men's bracket and/or downloadable women's bracket and slot in your team picks. Good luck!


Photo of a man who is the author of the blog post

Jim Gazzolo is a freelance sports multimedia journalist who resides in Lake Charles, La. He is married to Kimberlee, and they have four children and seven grandchildren. Jim is a fellow graduate of Truman State University (formerly Northeast Missouri State University). 


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