What March means to a basketball fan

March Madness, or the NCAA Basketball Tournament as it’s known to most, is one of the greatest annual events on the sports calendar. If your alma mater is in the field of 68 teams, it’s a whole lot better.

That’s what I’m learning this year, since my Florida State Seminoles are one loss in the ACC Tournament from being left behind for the first time in a half-decade.

Ignorance is bliss — before the Seminoles made the tournament in 2009 for the first time since I’d become a fan, all I knew was the lesser NIT. It’s the meaningless tourney for the teams bad enough to miss the Big Dance. It’s insignificant, and now that my team had their run of four consecutive years in the NCAA Tournament, I realize how worthless it truly is.

It’s all I’ll have this year, though.

Watching March Madness without a dog in the fight is going to be a lonely feeling that’s tough to describe. It’s kind of like … I don’t know. It’s probably best I let South Park‘s Kyle Broflovski tell you what it’s like.

There’s a positive to my team missing the tournament — I can finally fill out a bracket again without second-guessing myself. If I put FSU too deep into my bracket, I’d risk being a homer, but if I thought my team was good and didn’t show enough confidence in my projections, I’d risk losing money off my own team’s success. I even skipped a couple office pools in past years, worried I’d jinx my team with a stroke of my pen.

But after four years of tournament excitement and three years in a row of taking a trip to see the greatest spectacle in college sports, it’s going to be a strange feeling watching the NCAA Tournament as an unaffected onlooker instead of someone plotting all the possibilities that could get my team into the Final Four.

Maybe the Seminoles will make a miracle run in Greensboro in two weeks and follow in the footsteps of the 2008 Georgia Bulldogs — earning an automatic bid the easy way — but in all likelihood, a long season of rebuilding will pay off a year or two from now. Until then, I’ll save my money and hope future years hold a last-minute flight to a faraway land to see my team play in a future installment of the NCAA Tournament.

I get you, Kyle. I get you.

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