So I had originally thought that this week it would be fun to share some of the neat college basketball themed treats we would be enjoying while cheering on my teams in the Sweet 16. IU shaped brownies for Indiana, blue and white cookies for Butler… Alas, after the results of the weekend’s games, it looks like that post will need to wait until next year. Hopefully next year, at least! So instead, I will be sharing one of my favorite (and most absurd and embarrassing) traditions: My March Madness Menagerie.
With the NCAA tournament always falling around Easter time, we proudly display a collection of stuffed chicks, ducks, and bunnies that are all named after college basketball personalities. It started simply enough years ago with a funny looking duck we named Gonzaga (because it was a funny word to say and went perfectly with the funny looking duck) and a cute little rabbit we named Bunny Battier. Each year we added more and more because, let’s be honest, there are lots of college basketball names that are just plain fun to say. (For example, Izzo… Tubby… Duany Duany… Scoonie Penn… just to name a few.) Now we have so many characters in our menagerie, we have to keep a list so that we remember all the names, and if you sit in the wrong spot on the couch, an avalanche of stuffed ducks may fall and bury you. Some of my favorites include Matt Howard the Duck, Pat (Knight) the Bunny, Duckitch (for Dan Dakich), and, of course, Duck Vitale. It’s a very unique (ok, weird) tradition, and it makes me so very happy to see my furry basketball friends every year.
Nothing makes me feel more like spring has finally spring than Selection Sunday – truly one of my favorite evenings of the year. While my husband has yet to embrace the importance of this day, after almost 9 years of marriage he definitely understands that it is important to me and happily (?) and kindly goes along with my Selection Sunday ritual.
We start with an early supper of mini pigs in blankets – the official food of college basketball in our family. We need to be done eating early because dinner must be finished by the time the pairings are aired on TV. It’s too hard to fill in brackets while munching mini pigs in blankets. I always make sure I have my blank bracket, a pencil, and a lap desk ready in front the TV. I scribble down the pairings as they are announced live. Sure, I could just wait 15 minutes and just print them out when they become available online, but there us something thrilling about furiously trying to write down all the teams in the correct spots as they are read from the TV (as in the olden days – like 5 years ago – before brackets were instantly available on the internet) while simultaneously yelling and/or cheering at the TV accordingly.
After that, I do print out 2 other brackets from the CBS website. I make one of the teams I want to win and one of the teams I think will win, and I use both throughout the tournament. (For the record, this year my “want” champion is Butler and my “think” champion is Duke. Although I have had no time this year for following or studying up on college basketball as I usually do, so my “think” bracket is a real shot in the dark.) The whole process is such fun, and I can’t wait until the games begin. Oh, and Go Big Red, Go Dawgs, and Go Anyone Playing Against Kentucky!
March is not only one of my favorite parts of the year because of basketball but also because of a fantastic probability lesson I get to teach. Kids love it, and it illustrates the idea of probability very well.
First, get a NCAA bracket. Assign a color of Unifix cubes to each team. For example (sadly not this year though!) IU could be red and Butler could be blue.
Then give teams numbers of cubes based on their seeds. High seeds get lots of cubes, and low seeds get few cubes. So a number one seed would get 16 cubes and a number sixteen seed would get 1 cube. Make sense? Then for each match up, put the two teams’ cubes into a lunch bag.
Basketball Probability Cubes
Shake the bag up and reach into it without looking. The team of the color cube you pull out gets a point. Repeat this process until you can predict the winner of the whole tournament. Then have the children compare their results to the actual results as the real games progress.
I have done this with first through fifth graders with various adaptations. Do it as a whole class activity or assign games to small groups and have the groups report the results to the class. Or even do it at home with your own family. Depending on time available and attention span of the kids, pick 1, 3, or 5 cubes from the bags to determine the game winners. Usually the team that has the most cubes wins, but there will be upsets – leading to good discussions of probable but not certain and unlikely but not impossible. Do this all in one sitting or spread it out over several days.
Regardless of how you do it in your own classroom or home setting, kids of all ages love this. Be warned – they get very excited (and loud), but they will also be very engaged. And they will all understand probability in the end.