For college basketball fans, the best four days of the year are at hand. The opening weekend of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, clinically diagnosed as March Madness, takes hold Thursday afternoon and runs until early Sunday evening, during which 64 teams will be whittled down to the Sweet 16.
Some of the best action, especially from the perspective of state fans, will take place in Orlando’s Amway Arena on Thursday and Saturday. Florida plays East Tennessee State at 3:10 p.m. Thursday and Florida State takes on Florida Gulf Coast at 9:20 p.m. The Orlando site also features one of the most enticing first round matchups, Maryland against Xavier, as well as Virginia playing North Carolina-Wilmington. On Monday afternoon, StubHub was listing tickets, good for all games both days, starting at $177.
If you can’t hit the road, but still want to hear the roar of the crowd, check out a local sports bar. Here are five popular choices from around the area:
1560 Main St., Sarasota
Evie's claims to have the largest LED TV in Sarasota, as well as enough other screens to ensure you’ll be able to see your favorite team. In addition to food and drinks, Evie’s offers two bowling lanes to occupy your time during breaks in the action.
6606 Tamiami Trail, in South Sarasota
Harry’s, the No. 1 ranked Sarasota sports bar on Yelp, features 63 TVs and “fan specials” during big events, including a pitcher of beer and a cheese pizza for $15.99.
106 Tamiami Trail, Osprey
One of the newer entries into the local sports bar scene, Mad Moe’s has built a large fan base and stellar reviews for its food and atmosphere. It offers 20 TVs, with indoor and outdoor seating, and plenty of parking.
652 E. Venice Ave., Venice
Just a few blocks from Venice’s historic downtown, Bogey’s has long been a hub for South County sports fans, drawing boisterous crowds, especially seasonal residents cheering on their home teams. Walls and the ceilings are covered in logos and TVs are everywhere, including on an outside viewing deck.
4310 S.R. 64 E., Bradenton
Another of southwest Florida's homegrown restaurant/sports bar franchises, Gecko's combines above-average American fare with sports-tuned TVs in the bar as well as dining room.
These are just a handful of the sports bars in the area. Tell us your favorite spot in the comments section below.