March Madness doesn't start with the Men's NCAA Tournament. In fact, things are well underway, with conference tournaments already starting and bubble teams competing for their lives.
This is the time to put in the work needed to create a bracket that will in all likelihood still be bad. But at least you'll feel more confident and educated while filling it out incorrectly. Here's how to schedule your life accordingly.
11:30 a.m. - 3 p.m. ET: This is a good time to get some work done and garner some goodwill at your place of work. You’re going to need it in order to stay employed by the end of March.
3 p.m. ET: If you want to get the March vibes going, you can’t do much better than watching Butler vs. St. John's playing at Madison Square Garden. Neither team is that good (both are floating around .500) so their seasons are on the line. It’s a matchup worthy of 20-30% of your attention. Watch it on FS1.
7 p.m. ET: There are a couple of intriguing games in this time slot. Wisconsin and Ohio State should be a rock fight, but I'll be tuning in to Boston College vs. UNC (ESPN2). The Tar Heels entered the year as the #1 team in the nation, returning more or less all their players from last season. But this year they’ve just been… bad?
It’s likely nothing less than an ACC Tournament win will get them a March Madness berth, and if that doesn’t happen they’ll become the first pre-season No. 1 to fail to make the tournament field.
11:30 p.m. ET: If you can’t sleep because you’re just so psyched it’s March, first of all, PACE YOURSELF! Second of all, you should probably pop on the final in the Big Sky conference featuring Northern Arizona vs. Montana State on ESPN2. There’s never been a better time to fall in love with a future 15-seed.
9 a.m.-12 p.m. ET: Get your affairs in order, it’s going to be a long day.
12 p.m. ET: Rutgers and Michigan are two tough teams that will have their seasons on the line when they face off. Michigan in particular is interesting. They’re sporting an unimpressive 17-14 record, but they’ve played some really good teams close and have had a knack for making noise in March. You’re gonna want to watch Juwan’s kid, Jett Howard, who is one of the best freshmen in the country.
2-2:30 p.m. ET: Grab a late lunch and take a bathroom break. But try to hustle.
2:30 p.m. ET: Two very fascinating bluebloods, Duke and UCLA, will both be playing in this slot. Both teams have been hot to close out the season and should get some heavy consideration in your bracket this year. Come for Kyle Filipowski, stay for Jaime Jacquez Jr.
5:30 p.m. ET: After consuming your bluebloods, have a little fun with some mid-major action. Nevada and San Jose State are two very fun teams led by great coaches. The Wolfpack is led by Steve Alford, who is no stranger to the tournament. Meanwhile, San Jose State is having one of the most surprising seasons of any team in the country, coached by bespectacled former Nebraska coach Tim Miles. Both squads must win to make it to the tourney, and I predict it’ll come down to the last basket.
7 p.m. ET Auburn and Arkansas will play in the SEC tournament, and it’s a good time to get some insight on two teams that will be very pesky outs in the tournament. Arkansas in particular is littered with young NBA talent this season and could make a deep run if they start playing up to their potential at the right time.
9 p.m. ET: Vanderbilt—led by SEC Coach of the Year Jerry Stackhouse—really deserves to go dancing. They’ve played fantastic basketball down the stretch, winning 9 of their last 10 conference games. They’re likely going to need to make it to at least the semi-finals of the SEC tournament to secure an at-large bid. I’m hoping it happens.
11 p.m. ET: Go get some rest, you have another big day ahead of you. But we're really proud of the effort you've put in so far, champ.
9 a.m. -12 p.m. ET: Set up all your away-from-office emails. If someone needs to reach you this weekend, that’s a shame. They should have tried to talk to you in February.
12 p.m. ET: Start your basketball day with a heaping helping of top seeds. #5 Purdue, #1 Houston, and #2 Alabama all play in this time slot and it’s a good time to become more familiar with some faces who will loom large in March.
3 p.m. ET: The Conference USA semi-final is happening, which should be a good time to get eyes on Florida Atlantic—one of the top mid-majors in the country. FAU is definitely going to be a team you’ll want to sneak into the Sweet 16 in your bracket and later look like a genius.
5-6:30 p.m. ET: Maybe try reading, go for a jog, take a nap? If there’s anything you can do not basketball related, this is basically your last chance for the next three days. Use it wisely.
6:30 p.m. ET: You’re going to want to have eyes on Chris Collins' Northwestern squad this March. They were projected to finish last in the Big Ten and have instead established themselves as one of the best defensive teams in the nation. They’re led by senior Boo Buie, whose game is almost as good as his name. This is another team worth hopping on the bandwagon of early. If you have another screen, try to flip between this and the Texas A&M game at 7.
9 p.m. ET: If you haven’t yet, use this time slot to watch both Kentucky and Indiana. Mike Woodson has the Hoosiers playing their best basketball in what seems like more than a decade. Meanwhile Kentucky, after a brutal start, is beginning to turn it on. They were embarrassed by Saint Peter’s last year in the tournament, but don’t be surprised if they bounce back with a Final Four run.
11:59 p.m. ET: Wake up honey, the Mountain West semi-finals are starting!
11 a.m. ET: Start your day off right with the Ivy League semi-final and the championship in the America East conference. Quick: Name a team in the America East conference (Vermont. The answer is always Vermont).
1 p.m. ET: Another tournament ticket gets booked with the final in the MEAC. If you’re a fan of being the first to know about 16 seeds, you can’t do much better.
3 p.m. ET: A lot of great basketball to flip between here. I'm probably going to be watching the SEC/Big Ten semi-finals since at least one team from those conferences always makes my Final Four.
5-6 p.m. ET: This might be a good time to get in touch with and reacquaint yourself with loved ones. They haven’t seen you in a while.
6 p.m. ET: Now it’s crunch time. The Big 12 championship game will tip off, and it’s likely going to include two teams that are favored to make the Final Four. Concurrently, the Mountain West championship tips off in Las Vegas and 30 minutes later the Big East final will be underway. This is a great chance to scout out some of the best potential sleepers in the field—and in the case of the Big East—legitimate title contenders.
8:30 p.m. ET It’s a down season for the league, but it’s still worth watching the ACC championship game. If you have trouble containing nausea while ESPN gushes about Duke, cleanse your palette by flipping over to the Conference USA championship on CBS Sports.
10:30 p.m. ET: Are you a little tired of watching basketball? Well, that’s a shame because the PAC-12 championship tips off late and you need to watch it. If you still find yourself wanting, fear not, the WAC championship tips off an hour later with worse teams.
12-7 p.m. ET: It’s Selection Sunday — clear your damn schedule. We have five conference tournament championship games (Big Ten, SEC, Ivy League, Atlantic 10 and AAC) followed by the bracket unveiling. Get your popcorn and watch the Selection Sunday broadcast starting at 6 p.m. ET on CBS.
At this point, you might feel like a husk of a human. Your body has consumed more basketball than any person should in such a short period of time.
But I have some good (and terrible news) for you: We're just getting started.