Ed Note: March Madness is about to begin and for most avid NFL/MLB fans like myself, I know a bit about college basketball, but not as much as I should. Which is why we were extremely happy that college basketball fan and former cheerleader Bridget Siegel invited us to use her tips on how to not look like a fool while watching the basketball games that will soon consume many people’s lives.

The Tip Off

Some advice from a former college cheerleader and, yes, mascot…

It’s March Madness!! For basketball fans it’s the most fun time of year.  For others, it’s like Match.com emptied their members into all the local bars.

But date prospecting during sports watching can be a minefield. And while it’s typically treacherous for women, as a woman who’d rather watch a Hoya game than any show out there, I can tell you there are men who need some advice just as much.

You’ve got the perfect casual, sports bar outfit together so now get the perfect I-tried-but-not-too-hard lingo to go with it.

Here are five simple things to know before tip-off.

(If you’re not yet at tip-off: basketball games begin with a “tip-off” where the ref throws the ball up in the air and 1 player from each team jumps and tries to tip the ball to their team)

1. Name that Team

Don’t call teams the color of their uniform. Saying “the blue team” is a dead giveaway that you’re a novice.

The team names come up on the bottom of the screen (usually in the color of their uniforms) every few minutes so hold your comments til you know who you’re talking about.

2. TournamentS plural

March Madness is not just one tournament! The different regions play tournaments all around the country first.

These are tournaments like the Big East, the ACC, the PAC 10, and so on (the conferences are mostly geographically regional but not completely so stay away from guessing here).

The winners of those tournaments along with some other good teams make up 68 teams that go to the NCAA Division 1 basketball tournament.

This is the one you get brackets for at your office and probably pick teams based on what names you like, or cities you enjoy visiting.

*sidenote- don’t stop picking teams like that, there are so many upsets during the tournament that random picking is usually the best!

3. The Three

Most baskets are worth 2 points but there’s a big half moon shaped line around each basket called the 3-point line. When a player shoots from behind the line they score 3 points.

The refs (and big fans) put both hands up in the air to signify it may be 3 points. For extra credit with the sports nut, here’s a little more: in college basketball the 3 point line is closer to the basket than in the NBA.

If the teams are playing in a professional stadium you may even see the 2 half moons, 1 behind the other. When a college player shoots the ball standing way behind the inside line you can impressively say, “that was totally an NBA 3!” Meaning it would have counted for 3 in the NBA too.

4. Coach K.

Coach K is the coach of Duke University. He is the winningest coach in college basketball. Knowing him is like knowing the red Loubotin heel at a Bergdorf shoe event. His actual name is pronounced Sheh- shev- ski but it’s spelled Krzyzewski.

5. The last minute

This is the most important advice I can possibly give. Unless you need to say “fire”, “someone just put something in your drink” or “there’s a guy with a gun”, if the game is close and it’s in the last minute, STOP TALKING.

There are no non-emergency exceptions to this rule. Before you speak look at the bottom of the screen.

If the time is at seconds and the teams are within 10 points of each other STOP TALKING.

I promise there is nothing you can say, even if you are a nobel laureate with the cure to a disease, nothing, that will be more impressive than letting a fan watch the last minute of the game.

It’s the best non-speaking pick-up line you’ll ever have.

So there you have it! 5 tips to get you past tip-off!


Bridget graduated from Georgetown University School of Foreign Service with a degree in International Security Studies and Diplomacy. She is a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations.  She’s also a die hard Hoya fan and a former Georgetown cheerleader who may or may not have served as the Georgetown Mascot, Jack the Bulldog.  Bridget resides in New York City and you can check out her website here.