It's time for the two most exciting days of the sports year, tipping off the best, most unique and most captivating championship our country has to offer.
The opening Thursday and Friday of the NCAA Tournament are unmatched among sporting events when it comes to magic, mayhem and sheer adrenaline. It's games galore, great finishes, big upsets and Cinderella stories ...
Since virtually everyone fills out a bracket, the NCAA Tournament - and in particular the first two days - allows everyone to take some form of ownership of the college basketball showcase. We all love bragging about how we correctly picked that 12 seed to pull off an upset, even if many people making the picks know little or nothing about the teams they've selected. (That's OK. Just act like you do.)
The Super Bowl is the only other annual sporting event that captures the attention of diehard sports fans, non-sports fans and everyone in between. Still, the Super Bowl is more of a social exercise than a sporting event, with seemingly more people caring about gathering with friends and family or the commercials than the game itself.
When it comes to the NCAA Tournament, the games are all that matter.
In some ways, the tournament is better than ever, although in other ways it's clearly worse.
The parity that exists nowadays is remarkable. That's why we've seen small programs like Butler, VCU and George Mason reach the Final Four in recent years.
Don't be surprised if another little-known team makes a good run this year (Wichita State, Long Beach State and Belmont are among the possibilities).
Parity can be fun, but it's also depressing because it reveals how watered down college basketball has become over the years with star players bolting early for the NBA. In that regard, the tournament is not as enjoyable as it was back in the 1980s and '90s.
Instead of getting to see star seniors such as Patrick Ewing, Danny Manning and Christian Laettner, we now get star freshmen like Kentucky's Anthony Davis, the projected No. 1 pick in this year's NBA draft.
Even with the dropoff in overall quality, the tournament is still highly entertaining.
Here are some of my picks for this year's bracket:
Sleepers (with seed): 3 Marquette, 5 New Mexico, 6 UNLV, 9 UConn, 10 Purdue, 11 N.C. State, 11 Texas. If Connecticut gets past Iowa State, the defending national champs have enough talent to stun Kentucky and ruin everyone's bracket.
Final Four: Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio State, Missouri. I initially picked Syracuse, but losing center Fab Melo to an academic issue kills the Orange's chances.
Champion: North Carolina over Kentucky
Good luck in your bracket.
Cory Giger is the host of "Sports Central" from 4 to 6 p.m. daily on ESPN Radio 1430 WVAM. Reach him at 949-7031 or @CoryGiger on Twitter.