Top 5 Reasons to Be Excited About 2012 March Madness

The 2012 version of the annual NCAA basketball tournament—March Madness—is set to begin in just over two weeks (first tip off on March 13). At least 35 or 40 teams know they are in the field of 64, but there are another 30 or 40 bubble teams whose records give them a shot, but no guarantee of making it to the big dance. The excitement building up to selection Sunday, when brackets are built and the road to the NCAA championship is laid out for all to see, is palpable in big cities and college towns all across the country. Let's take a lighthearted look at the top 5 reasons to be excited about March Madness 2012.

5. Your chance to get rich.

There are dozens of free bracket picking contests on the web, some of them even offering multimillion dollar payouts for picking a perfect bracket. And of course all of the major casinos and online sports books are offering March Madness bracket contests with various levels of entry fees. Or you can just throw in $20 bucks in your office pool, and if your bracket is the best you could collect a few hundred bucks.

4. You can relive your glorious college days.

Even if you weren't quite good enough to make your college basketball squad, you still remember screaming your lungs out at the Friday night games in the gym, and the amazing feeling you got when your beloved No. 13 seed Woodchucks knocked off the No. 4 seed Hoosiers in the first round of the tourney back in—well, whatever year it was—and the campus literally exploded in an unabashed frenzy of celebration. March Madness brings it all back again—every year!

3. Perfect excuse to watch TV at work.

Another great reason to look forward to the NCAA basketball tournament is that at least half the workplaces across the country will have a TV on somewhere in the office, and most of the male employees (often including the boss) will be standing around exchanging high-fives for several hours of the day. Heck, these days it will probably be most of the female employees too!

2. The commercials.

March Madness has gotten to be close to the Super Bowl in hype these days, and all the major advertising and marketing companies will be rolling out new campaigns for various products during the tourney (especially the Final Four). You can expect to see both new versions of successful past campaigns and some new mind-bending graphics and special effects.

1. "Ya gotta love it, baby!"

The famous words of the irrepressible Dick Vitale about college basketball continue to ring true decades later. No other sport provides quite the same combination of excitement and intimacy that college basketball does (ok, maybe Jai Alai), and for sure no fans care more about their team than college basketball fans.

Clayton Browne lives in Austin, Texas and is a big-time college basketball fan.

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Updated Monday, Feb 27, 2012