The basketball and beer gods are perfectly aligned this year, giving us a welcome opportunity to prepare for our NCAA Tournament hoops binge with a St. Patrick’s Day hops binge. The lesson, of course, for us mere mortals is that while moderation is typically a best practice, mid-March is not one of those times. Sure, we will be consuming unhealthy, unsustainable amounts of Guinness and Gottlieb this week, but we have earned that right!


For diehard and casual sports fans alike, this is our spring break with a fast break twist – and a shot of whiskey. So if you are feeling bleary-eyed and confused on this post-St. Paddy’s morning, get used to it. More importantly, get ready to watch, rinse and repeat on Thursday and Friday, two magical sports days that will surely leave your head spinning. If you are lucky, you might even experience that same all-consuming, self-loathing sensation you are feeling right now.


The NCAA Tournament may be without the Irish this year (sorry, Notre Dame), but there are plenty of intriguing story lines that are worthy of a pint-raise (including the Digger Phelps drinking game, which is based on how many times the former Irish coach and current ESPN analyst blurts out “Points in the Paint” during his broadcasts).


As we deftly navigate from Riverdance to the Big Dance, here is what we are most looking forward to in this year’s tournament:


1.  The return to the Mecca of basketball, New York City’s Madison Square Garden, the host site of the East Regional. What really makes us happy is that neither Syracuse nor Michigan is in the East Region, because nothing/no one exudes debauchery more than the droves of NYC-based alumni from these fine institutions.


2. Which of the fantastic freshmen will rise to the top? The stage is set for Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Julius Randle. Will we be talking about any of their tournament runs in 10 years?


3. Who will channel their inner-Harold “The Show” Arceneaux to emerge from obscurity to give us a transcendent performance? New Mexico’s Australian big man Cameron Bairstow could fit that bill.


4. Will Wichita State be this year’s Wichita State? The mid-major darlings of last year’s Final Four are undefeated and poised to make another run to the final weekend. They also happen to face what appears to be the most daunting path ever for a Number 1 seed.


5. Doug McDermott. Enough said.


6. Harvard. Enough said.


7. 1988 NCAA Tournament hero Danny Manning is back in the Dance as the head coach at Tulsa. Danny’s former head coach at Kansas, Larry Brown, is not so lucky. His Dallas-based SMU squad is somewhat surprisingly sitting at home, while their home city prepares to host the Final Four.


8. For the first time ever, Final Four games will be simulcast on multiple channels, giving viewers the option of listening to Jim Nantz on the primary national broadcast or the local play-by-play guys from the participating teams.


9. Enjoying the ride and expecting the unexpected.


Let the mid-March over-indulgence begin. We promise not to judge — at least for the next couple of weeks.


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