Ah, the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. March madness. The most wonderful time of the year. Whatever you want to call it, it’s awesome. Calling out of work sick to binge watch games all day, watching games with other “sick” friends, stuffing your face with pizza. It’s a truly wonderful time.

With all this awesomeness comes filling out a bracket, attempting to predict who’ll win each and every game of the 68-team tournament. Every fan (or clueless idiot) has fun filling out a bracket. Whether the stakes include cash, food or just bragging rights. But fun isn’t the only emotion amateur bracketologists go through every March. Here are the six stages of bracketology.



Selection Sunday is over, the bracket is set, and you’re ready to conquer it. “New season, who dis,” you say as you fill in your bracket for the first time. After last year’s (and probably the year before that’s) atrocious results in your office or family pool, you now know what mistakes you made and won’t make them again. You pick your winners with Johnny Bravo-like confidence, and you’re ready to win whatever the winner of your respective pools wins.



After the first day of games, you’ve made quite a few mistakes in your picks. You realize that maybe you’re not a modern day Nostradamus after all. Chances are you’re not in first place in your office pool. It’s probably Janice from HR who hasn’t watched a basketball game in 11 years. “No one likes you anyway, Janice,” you say in your mind while you say aloud at the same time, “Janice! Killing it in the pool! Congrats!” While this nervousness is definitely there, you still have confidence the teams you picked for day two will come through for you.



By the time the Sweet 16 is set, you realize you only got maybe 10 teams correct. That’s on a good year. At this point, you’re asking yourself why you even bothered yet again to fill out a bracket. “Ugh, I wasted another $20 on an entry fee,” you say to yourself. “That’s like six trips to McDonald’s. Wasted.”



It’s Final Four time, and you’re lucky to even have one team in the Final Four. You’ll root for them even though you know it’s not even mathematically possible for you to even get into the top five in your office pool. But you don’t care. By now, you’re just hoping for good games.



It’s five minutes after the final buzzer of the National Championship Game and you can finally breathe that sigh of relief knowing the torture is all over. No more worrying about whether any of your teams will get wins and how close you are to beating your best friend from work or that coworker you hate. You’re finally at peace. Until the next morning.



It’s the morning after the National Championship Game. A Tuesday morning at that. You’re more tired than you’ve ever been at work because you stayed up until 1 a.m. watching the post-game celebration. Just when you thought you could move on with your life, your boss comes up to Janice from HR and hands her a tiny trophy he bought her online that says “Office champion” and a stack of cash. “She actually won,” you think. “The one person in this entire office who doesn’t deserve it solely because of her lack of basketball knowledge took home the grand prize.” You’re fuming with jealousy … and now all you can do is look forward to next year when you have to do it all over again.