It's March Madness time again. The NCAA men's and women's basketball championships really get going today. Overall, there will be 129 teams playing 127 games in three weeks to crown two champions.
March Madness is always fun. But what if your favorite team didn't make it to the Big Dance? Or let's say you're a big Maryland or Duke fan and your team gets upset in the first couple rounds. How do you keep interested in the tournament when your team is on the sidelines?
My family has found a way to make the NCAA tournaments even more fun. Each of the four of us picks six teams to root for during the tournament. We play the game with the men's tournament -- where the picks can be as difficult as spelling "Krzyzewski" -- but you can do it with the women's tournament too.
Here's how to play: We take turns by age, with the youngest in the family picking first. Once a team is picked, no one else can take it. We continue in the same order until everyone has six teams. One special rule: Each player has to have at least one team (an "upset pick") whose seed is between 8 and 16. That way people can't pick only the highest seeds.
We put the four lists of six teams on the refrigerator door. Every time a team on someone's list wins a game in the tournament, we put a check beside the team's name. The person whose teams win the most games is the winner.
What's the prize? In our family, the losers have to cook the winner's favorite meal or dessert. But your family can have different rules and prizes.
Okay? Got it? Grab the brackets and start picking. The games begin around noon today. In case you need a little help, here are my favorites and some possible upset picks for each of the four regions in the men's tournament. But I should warn you: I am usually cooking the meal after the tournament, not ordering it.
Favorites: Syracuse, Oklahoma. Upset picks: Butler, Penn. Playing close to home may help the young, but talented Syracuse team make it to the Final Four.
Favorites: Connecticut, Florida. Upset picks: LSU, UNC Wilmington. Sorry, but I think the Maryland Terps might lose in the first round to UNC Wilmington and the high-scoring guard with the cool name: Brett Blizzard.
Favorites: Kentucky, Missouri. Upset picks: Weber State, Holy Cross. It is hard to see any team in the region beating the streaking Kentucky Wildcats.
Favorites: Arizona, Duke. Upset picks: Gonzaga, Wisconsin-Milwaukee. This region is loaded with powerhouses. Six or seven teams have a real chance to get to the Final Four.
Fred Bowen writes KidsPost's sports column, which usually runs on Friday. He is the author of sports novels for kids. Write to him at KidsPost, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, DC 20071. Or e-mail (with "The Score" in the subject field): firstname.lastname@example.org.