Trying to predict March Madness has become a national pastime, but the NCAA tournament can be extremely frustrating. Favorites lose, sleepers rise and Cinderella teams bury your perfect bracket.
And all that happens before the seventh game of the first round is finished.
During the 2017-18 men's college basketball regular season, no unquestioned, dominant team emerged. While Virginia and Villanova are closest to flaunting that billing, both programs have an unspectacular history in March Madness.
That perception—along with recent losses by Xavier, Michigan State and Duke, among others—is a significant reason why the Big Dance lacks an obvious favorite.
Some may consider it frustrating. That's understandable.
Even 24-plus hours after the bracket was released, you still might not have a clue which program you'll select to cut down the nets in San Antonio on April 2. We get that, too.
"You know I think of all the years, this is the one year that there are so many teams that have an opportunity," longtime analyst Gus Raftery said, per Matt Murschel of the Orlando Sentinel.
For that exact reason, however, we're choosing to love it.
Every No. 1 seed has what seems like an especially challenging second-round matchup. Like Virginia and Villanova, Kansas has endured a few sooner-than-expected eliminations over the last half-decade. The Jayhawks, along with Xavier, are going to meet a respectable ACC, Big East, Big 12 or SEC program over the first weekend.
Plus, each of Arizona (4), Gonzaga (4) and West Virginia (5) are regarded more highly than their position in the bracket would suggest. Those are all potential Sweet 16 matchups for No. 1 seeds, and they're certainly not ideal.
As for the No. 2 seeds, Duke has earned this position in five of the last 10 tournaments yet only reached the Elite Eight once. Purdue fans know better than to trust their Boilermakers. North Carolina lost 10 games this season. Relative unfamiliarity with Cincinnati can subconsciously create doubt for anyone who hasn't seen the Bearcats.
Third-seeded Michigan and Michigan State are two of the hottest teams in the nation. They could take down any No. 1 or 2.
And we're expecting mayhem beyond the top seeds.
Both Auburn (4) and Wichita State (4) have challenging mid-major opponents on Friday. Clemson (5) is missing a standout forward, and Ohio State (5) is caught in a mini-slump.
There's a legitimate possibility any of sixth-seeded Florida, Houston and Miami lose in the first round. Yet they're also all talented enough to dispatch a formidable No. 11 before knocking off the No. 3 seed and reaching the Sweet 16.
Missouri, Alabama, Texas and Oklahoma—all seeded between eight and 10—have a likely NBA lottery pick gracing the roster.
One-and-dones typically don't have much sustained success in the NCAA tourney, but top-three seeds certainly aren't looking forward to possibly taking on Michael Porter Jr., Collin Sexton, Mohamed Bamba or Trae Young during the opening weekend.
Butler, Providence, Loyola-Chicago, UCLA and New Mexico State are merely a handful of double-digit seeds with multi-win potential.
How can you possibly know what's going to happen?
You don't. I don't. Nobody does.
This year, rather than getting demoralized when it's clear your bracket won't be a winner, embrace the chaos from the beginning.
Yes, for many of us, that's a challenge. Our competitive natures shift an event loaded with memorable games and fun stories to lingering disappointment simply because a couple of teams exited the tournament earlier than we'd anticipated.
My favorite team lost, but that No. 12 seed and that No. 13 just pulled an upset? Oh great, now I lost the program I care about and two Sweet 16 teams already. Forget about it. Jump on the bandwagons.
Top-seeded Villanova wasn't supposed to fall in the second round last year. Michigan State, a highly respected No. 2 in 2016, crushed a bunch of hopes and dreams because it couldn't keep up with 15th-seeded Middle Tennessee in the first round. Two No. 2s and two No. 3s didn't even reach the Sweet 16 one year earlier.
You're noticing a pattern, right? Every year, it's the same story. Every year, something baffling happens on the court. The 2018 tournament will be no different—and likely even crazier than normal.
That's the beauty of the Big Dance.
Embrace the madness. Let chaos reign.