This week brings both the "Ides of March" (March 15) and the equinox (March 21), but there's a third recurring event that to some -- notably fans of U.S. college sports -- is a far more meaningful indicator of this time of year. The annual National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Basketball Championships -- with separate tournaments for men's and women's teams -- kick off the season better known as "March Madness." For the next several weeks, banter related to the ongoing series of single-elimination playoff games will dominate much of the workplace water cooler chatter, and fill up much of the print and broadcast sports coverage up through the respective championship games slated for early April.
Much of the discussion will focus not just on the outcomes of the games and the fates of participating college teams, but also on how fans themselves are faring in an equally important competition: the wagering -- for fun and/or profit -- based on the tournament brackets.
"The NCAA opposes all sports wagering. This bracket should not be used for sweepstakes, contests, office pools or other gambling activities."
If you want to be among the handful of people who actually comply with this silly -- but obligatory -- NCAA sentiment by not using the official bracket for your office betting pool, there are numerous other sports- and news-related Web sites that offer their own PDF-based variations of the basketball tournament matchups, including:
Before you make uninformed guesses on the projected results -- especially if you hope to win a large or small jackpot -- check out some of the useful information at the sites mentioned above, and peruse articles such as "Ten best ways to fill out those brackets" from MSNBC.
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