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Students, Bellito take on March Madness brackets

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With Valentine’s Day over, it is time for the real holidays to begin: March Madness, otherwise known as the annual men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament. It is the best time of the year for any basketball fan, with 67 games taking place in the span of three weeks.

Around the country, millions of Americans fill out their brackets, trying to correctly predict the outcome of all 67 games. U.S History teacher Mr. Bellito makes class a little more fun this time every year with his March Madness Tournament challenge.

“For some reason, I’ve loved March Madness since I was in junior high. Then one year, [the idea] just kind of came to me,” Bellito said.

Bellito explained that his tournament challenge used to consist of one female and one male volunteer from each class to fill out a bracket, along with himself. The first five minutes of class were spent going over each other’s brackets. Just a few years ago, he has turned to the “ESPN Tournament Challenge” app to be able to include more people.

“The losers would agree to bring some snacks in; sometimes that was me. Actually, most of the time it was me,” Bellito said.

He went on to say that he started this challenge as just a fun thing to do that didn’t “drain on class.”

“We don’t do the probability stuff like they do in the math wing,” he chuckled.

Giovana Mete (12) said that she thought Bellito’s tournament challenge was a lot of fun and that it was cool to see what teams her classmates were rooting for.

“Of course Mr. Bellito made it super fun by being super enthusiastic and getting everyone in class excited about it, even if they did not care about March Madness,” she said.

Bellito said that the tournament is pretty “mainstream,” but he does bring in treats for the overall winner of the competition.

“Last year, I ended up bringing doughnuts for my second period class because Diana Sifuentes won the whole thing,” Bellito said. “Some people have a clue what they’re doing and other people don’t, which is what makes it fun.”

As for who Bellito is rooting for this March, he explained that he always roots for the Irish of the University of Notre Dame, but he does make some exceptions.

“I root for the Illini, for the wife. I’ve always kind of been a Duke fan, too, so I’ll cheer for them,” he said. “I cheer for the Illini and Irish first, although they might not make it.”

Even if you’re not in Bellito’s bracket challenge, students can have their own with friends and family, like senior Max Lyle does.

“I do a lot of bracket challenges every year,” Lyle said. “At least one with my friends, and then I enter the ESPN challenges as well.”

Senior Payton Foster said that he also does a bracket challenge with his friends.

This year’s bracket challenge may be one of the more difficult to complete. With the nation’s top teams getting upset week in and week out, there is no real dominant team, leaving the tournament wide open.

“It is looking like it is going to be very interesting with all of the upsets that are happening,” Foster said.

Max Lyle seconded that sentiment, saying that this year’s tournament appears to be a lot different than years past.

“There are a lot of teams that started unknown [that] are making a push for high seeds. [It’s] going to [be] very interesting this year,” he explained.

Foster said that it is a little too early for him to predict the Final Four. However, Lyle has his predictions set.

“I think the Final Four will have some new and familiar faces,” Lyle said. “I think it will be Villanova, Oklahoma, Michigan State, and Arizona.”

Even though Lyle predicts those four teams to be the last ones standing, he is still “rooting for Michigan all the way. Go Blue!” he exclaimed.

March Madness begins officially with Selection Sunday on March 11. Selection Sunday is the day when tournament teams are announced and seeded accordingly. The current favorites to be the four one seeds are Virginia, Villanova, Xavier, and Kansas.

The actual Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament begins March 13, with the opening round, also known as the First Four.

Bellito has some last-minute tips on how to fill out your bracket for the best chances of success.

“Upsets are great for the first two rounds, but your Elite Eight, Final Four and Champions should still be highly ranked teams.”

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