College basketball fans can feel the anticipation in the air: March Madness is upon us. You were ready with a blank bracket on Selection Sunday, and now you're prepped for one of the most emotionally draining months of the year. So where do you go when your friends start calling you "obsessed" and tell you "It's just a game"? You leave those suckers behind and head to your favorite sports bar, where you'll find all the friends you could ever need for two 20-minute halves.
U.S. News Travel searched for the best spots to watch the top-seeded men's basketball teams compete for the national championship. Unless you can follow your favorite team around the country, head back toward campus: A cozy college pub with cheering (and jeering) fans is the next best thing.
*The top two teams from each regional quarter were selected.
At Pazzo's, you're sure to get infected with Wildcat fever. Serving up specialty hand-tossed pizzas—try the "Funky Chicken" or the "Bourbon Bootlegger"—and a selection of 45 beers on tap, Pazzo's easily draws an impressive crowd. Throw in some fervent Kentucky fans and put the national championship on the line, and you can bet Pazzo's is brimming with basketball fervor. Luckily, this pizza pub has plenty of space to host the inevitable chaos. Patrons can dine in the back bar, the floor bar, the bourbon bar, the downstairs pub, or on the new outdoor patio.
Inhabiting a renovated tobacco warehouse in downtown Durham, Satisfaction is the off-campus spot for Blue Devils. While Durham residents haven't always celebrated the university's presence, you'll find locals and students alike rooting for the school at this outpost during March Madness. And with plenty of TVs and tables, Satisfaction is ready to host the masses. Note: Duke fans are notoriously loyal and outspoken for Coach K's crew, so you might want to steer clear of Satisfaction if you aren't siding with the devil.
Spartans know where to go to watch their beloved basketball team, and that's Reno's East. How do they know? First, they hear about it on the radio. The MSU Coaches Radio Shows, featuring Tom Izzo & Co., broadcast live from Reno's East each week. Second, several fan groups, including the MSU Blue Line Club and MSU Young Alumni Club, choose Reno's as their game-day home-away-from-home. And third, anyone can follow the trail of spirited undergraduates one mile north of campus to Reno's an hour or so before tip-off. With loads of HDTVs, 28 brews on tap, and an unbeatable crowd, Reno's East is the triple threat of the Michigan State bar scene.
Very succinctly, Harpo's website states, "This is why Harpo's is THE Mizzou Basketball Headquarters in Columbia." If that piece of evidence doesn't convince you, here are some more reasons. Harpo's has three sizable venues (the rooftop SkyyBar, the main level, and the 10below basement) so nearly all of your Tiger brethren will fit. Plus, Harpo's delivers cold drafts at reasonable prices. Add those factors to the tumultuous display of school spirit seen above, and you can't go wrong with Harpo's during March Madness.
In Syracuse, N.Y., you don't have a plethora of sports bar options. But that's possibly because you don't need much more than Faegan's to satisfy the demand of the Orangemen. Tagged "an eating and drinking establishment since 1978," Faegan's surpasses its modest subtitle, attracting hoards of 'Cuse fans despite competition from nearby party spot, Chuck's. With friendly servers and a spacious atmosphere, Faegan's distinguishes itself from the claustrophobic, grimy institutions you'll find nearby, particularly on Marshall Street. Special events like "Flip Night" and "Beer Tour" are student and young alumni favorites, but as Faegan's patrons will tell you, watching the Orangemen crush a competitor on the bar's big screen is second to none.
While football may dominate the Buckeye State, these Midwesterners can still get riled up about basketball. If you don't believe us, just join the OSU alums and students at the Varsity Club during March Madness. While the restaurant and bar's proximity to campus (across the street from the basketball arena) explains some of the fervor, the Varsity Club's traditional feel, with OSU memorabilia decorating the interior, attracts most fans. This Buckeye institution exudes school spirit, warm memories, and a friendly atmosphere. And don't forget to take a picture with the giant Brutus (OSU's mascot) at the entrance.
If you bleed Carolina blue, you should be watching March Madness unfold at Four Corners. Practically a part of campus due to its location, this relatively small bar serves up 12 draft beers, 40-plus bottled varieties, and some tasty bar food, including buffalo wings. But the real reason you come here is to enjoy the camaraderie facilitated by the bar's tiered set-up. With a great layout and TV arrangement, Four Corners somehow contains boisterous Tar Heels of all ages during basketball games. Narrowly taking the cake over competing March-Madness gathering ground, Top of the Hill, Four Corners' true-blue setting makes it the perfect place to meet up with Carolina fans—rain or shine, win or lose.
"Serving up tradition" since 1953, Johnny's Tavern is a local institution. Follow the Coors mug and large red arrow inside, and you'll find the typical game-day crowd: college kids, families, and KU alumni of all ages. Although the patrons are diverse, they're all diehard Jayhawks. And while Johnny's Tavern may not be the rowdiest bar in the area to watch the games, it's a ritual for many and has real character. And a true March Madness fan can't ask for much more than that.
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