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Basketball rules March
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I never knew a tournament bracket could bring me so much joy. How could it really? It's nothing but a bunch of lines on a piece of paper that by the end of the second day of play is littered with more red marks than a high school English paper.

If someone would have told me 10 years ago I would become an NCAA College Basketball Tournament junky, I would have laughed in their face. But I've matured and grown to become a bracket totting, college basketball loving freak - there I admitted it.

There's just something about picking games between teams you may have never even heard of much less have scouted to know whether they have a snow ball's chance in the tournament.

When making my picks I take advantage of my killer gut instinct, a magic eight ball and a fair amount of knowledge about major programs and conferences across the country.

With the prospect of the Mississippi State Bulldogs being in this year's tournament, I may even fill out two brackets - the dream bracket with Mississippi State either winning the tournament or at the very least, for a bad year, making the final four and then there's the realistic bracket that I take on the road with me and actually share with the general public.

Even folks who aren't typically huge fans of college basketball love to complete a bracket and make a competition out of who is the best prognosticator of sport.

Last year, I, along with the entire staff of my former newspaper, filled out brackets. Of the eight brackets that were submitted and placed on a bulletin board, I would wager that only three of us had actually ever watched a college basketball game before, but we all enjoyed the friendly competition of predicting the future.

Surprisingly enough, the winner didn't even know she had won until we told her and then she couldn't even tell us that Florida had won the tournament - kind of makes me angry but just proves my point about the reach of the basketball tournament.

I would encourage the friends, families and significant others of basketball nerds such as myself to get involved in this year's tournament - fill out a bracket, talk trash about the nerd's favorite team (that'll get them going) or actually sit and watch a game. You might be surprised at how quickly you get hooked yourself.

Here's a list of things I would suggest doing if you catch yourself getting bored during the games.

• Count the number of times the announcers talk about the keys to victory. In basketball, the lead has a tendency to change hands often, but the announcers like to talk about what each team needs to do to regain the lead. There observation usually amount to score more and play better defense - it's helpful advice I know. That should keep you busy.

• Critique the body paint of the kids in the student section. Some of those folks spend hours getting ready - it takes a lot of work to look that stupid.

• Watch the coach. They have to be, hands down, the most entertaining people on the court - the school mascots have nothing on these guys. They throw tantrums, they yell, they pace, they run out on the court and in some cases they've been known to faint.

• Google mascots. What is a Salukis? Who knows? Apparently it's a breed of dog but you wouldn't have known that had you not Googled the mascots.

• Just have fun. Whether you're a basketball fan or not find a way to support the basketball freak in your life.

Robby Byrd is the editor of The Covington News. He can be reached at rbyrd@covnews.