March Madness starts "Selection Sunday," when 64 NCAA Men's and Women's basketball teams are selected to go to the "Big Dance"—the NCAA Division I Basketball Championship tournament.

The first weekend of tournament play is the safest time to have a party to celebrate your favorite college basketball team. It's the first round, so all the teams that make it to the tournament will play that first week.

Here are some ideas to make your March Madness party a success:


Send out game brackets as your party invitations. Have the guests fill out the brackets before they arrive at the party, so you will be able to start the fun off with a basketball pool. Each guest should guess the winner of the game and score for each team.


Game time. Set times for your party unless you want the event to become an all-day affair. The games continue at various times throughout the week, so you could have people lingering around your house for days.


Decorations. Orange and black are neutral basketball colors to use when decorating for your March Madness party. If your guests will all be cheering for the same team, by all means, decorate accordingly.


Feeding a party can be like feeding a basketball team. Make sure you have enough food. Try making dishes that can be created ahead of time by using casserole and slow cooker recipes such as Pizza Casserole, Chicken Penne Casserole, Spicy Nacho Bake, Slow-Cooked Turkey Sandwiches, Creamy Hash Brown Potatoes, Zippy Spaghetti Sauce or Slow Cooker Mexican Dip.


More than one kind of ball. If your party is smaller, you might want to add to the party's basketball theme by serving only ball or circle-shaped dishes. Sausage Cheese Balls, Calzone Pinwheels, Stuffed Potato Skins, Bacon-Broccoli Cheese Ball, Meatball Pizza, Parmesan Potato Balls and Cheese Ball Snack Mix are all good choices.


Use a cooler to store drinks at your party. In addition to serving soda, bottled water and beer, throw a couple of sports drinks like Gatorade in your cooler to create a game-time atmosphere.


Dress the part. Make it easy for your guests to find you by wearing a referee jersey and carry a whistle to get their attention—just for fun.


Hoop dreams. Buy inflatable basketballs or foam balls and set up a basketball hoop in the room where people will be watching the game.


World's Greatest Fan. Create a basketball trivia game with questions about the teams playing in the games. For example: Who was the (insert school name here) coach in 1980? Name a pro player who used to play for (insert name of school).


Crank the tunes. Every party needs a little music. Try something from the ESPN "Jock Jams" collection. These songs are designed to pump up fans during games—and parties.


Home stretch. In between games, play your own basketball game in the driveway or in the park down the street. Too cold outside? Have a dribbling contest in the basement. Nothing releases game tension for a fan like a little exercise.


Not into exercise? Bring out the video games. If you don't own a basketball game for your gaming system, rent one.


Pickup game. Guests won't mind helping pick up when you put a basketball hoop over your trash can.



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