We're heading into the two most exciting weekends of the college basketball season, with NCAA tournament games beginning just after noon Thursday and continuing through Sunday. The flood of games next Thursday through Sunday features the important Sweet 16 and Elite Eight matchups. Bars are trying to help you catch as many games as possible, opening early and offering food and drink specials. Some even provide free WiFi if you need to get work done during your "afternoon meeting."
Arlington Rooftop Bar and Grill
The official bar of the local University of Virginia alumni club opens at 11 a.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. on weekends. Specials for the Cavaliers games include $3 pints and $12 pitchers of Miller Lite, $3 pints of Devils Backbone Vienna Lager, $3 Fireball shots, $5 burgers and half-price appetizers.
Conveniently located near Farragut Square, BlackFinn opens at 11 a.m. and offers a variety of food and drink specials during games, including $3 Budweiser and Bud Light, $4 Shock Top, $9.99 beef or pulled-pork slider trios, and wing platters in multiple sizes, such as 10 for $9.99 and 20 for $16.99.
Bracket Room (WiFi)
With a name like Bracket Room, this "flirty or dirty" Clarendon sports bar has to open early to show NCAA games on its 38 televisions. Food and drink specials will be offered all tournament long, and fans of candy-sweet shots can fill out a "Shot Madness" bracket and pick their favorite combination. The winning shot will be discounted for the next year, and someone who chose it will take home $500.
Caddies on Cordell
Bethesda's longtime sports destination opens daily at 11:30 a.m. During games, "non-premium" draft beers, such as Bud Light, Miller Lite and Yuengling, cost $2 per pint or $7 per pitcher. All the regular happy hour deals, such as half-price appetizers from 4 to 7 p.m., are still in effect.
Cleveland Park Bar and Grill
Cleveland Park's sports bar opens at noon for NCAA games, with plenty of screens and (fingers crossed) a rooftop viewing area when there's nice weather. Miller Lite pint cans will be $4 during all games.
Crystal City Sports Pub (WiFi)
When March Madness is in full swing, Crystal City Sports Pub is one of the best bars in the Washington area. There are 110 televisions over three floors, and the sprawling layout means that sound from six games can be on simultaneously, which is especially important during the early rounds of the tournament. Adding to the madness: Numerous alumni groups call this bar home, including undefeated Wichita State, North Carolina and Baylor.
First Down Sports Bar and Grill
Twenty large flat-screens and 40 flavors of wings would be reason enough to watch games at this Ballston sports bar, but it has some solid game-time deals, too, including 24-ounce cans of Bud Light, Miller Light and Coors Light for $5.50, Woodchuck ciders for $4, Bud Light pitchers for $10.99 and 120-ounce Bud Light towers for $19.99. About those wings: You can get a dozen with a side of fries for $10.99.
Penn Quarter Sports Tavern (WiFi)
Home to crowds supporting highly ranked Syracuse and Cincinnati, the Penn Quarter Sports Tavern opens at 11 a.m. and serves $4 Coors Light pints, $12 pitchers of Miller Lite and $15 pitchers of Blue Moon during all games. Different games will have sound on each floor when the action heats up at multiple tournament sites.
Penn Social (WiFi)
Watching games at Penn Social can be a dizzying experience: The cavernous basement includes a 30-foot movie screen and nine 10-foot high-definition screens, making it easy to pay attention to multiple games from almost anywhere in the room. (The bar is home to Arizona alumni, so expect the Wildcats to get the best screens.) Deals include $3 Miller Lite pints and $12 pitchers.
The Pour House (WiFi)
Home of the top-ranked Florida Gators, The Pour House -- which announced earlier this month that it's closing at the end of April -- opens at 11 a.m. for games. Food and drink specials include $16 pitchers of craft beer.
Public Bar (WiFi)
This spacious Dupont Circle sports bar will open at 11 a.m. whenever there's an early game scheduled. Deals include $3 Miller Lite and Yuengling drafts, $5 vodka Red Bull drinks and food specials.
The Hoyas may have missed the tournament for the first time since 2009, but Georgetown's Rhino Bar will open its doors for every NCAA game, serving 25-cent wings, $10 pitchers of Miller Lite or Coors Light and $6 Jager bombs. The bar is also an official Ohio State alumni spot.
Ventnor Sports Cafe (WiFi)
This Adams Morgan sports bar has specials planned for alumni viewing parties: North Carolina fans, for instance, will drink beer from Carolina-blue cups emblazoned with the logo of the Chapel Hill bar He's Not Here, while Syracuse fans can enjoy Labatt Blue specials and giveaways.