With less than a week before the bracket stage of the 2016 Heroes of the Dorm tournament, ESPN are once again trying to make the collegiate Heroes of the Storm competition into a nerdy, alternative March Madness. 64 collegiate teams have qualified from around North America to fight for fame, school pride, and the chance to graduate with a slightly less crushing debt burden (thanks to a grand prize that pays college tuition for the winners).
This year, rather than ambushing ESPN viewers with an out-of-the-blue Heroes tournament on ESPN2 like they did last year, Blizzard and ESPN are adding a little pomp-and-circumstance to the tournament. They got started Sunday night with a "Championship Bracket Reveal" on ESPNU, the sports network's collegiate sports channel.
It's not a bad segment, but it does illustrate how difficult it is to dramatize a tournament like this. While the teams might be from different schools around the country, it's not like they really represent those schools in the way that Duke's basketball team is affiliated with Duke. Most of these teams exist especially for this one tournament, so there's not much history around them. As a result the broadcasters struggle to tell an interesting story about this tournament and its teams.
In keeping with the college sports theme, ESPN have also revealed a Heroes of the Dorm Bracket Challenge, where you can fill-out your Heroes of the Dorm tournament bracket, just like basketball fans do every spring! With the lack of records and competitive history around these teams, most brackets will likely be full of wild guesswork. But if I'm being honest with myself, it's not like I've ever completed a bracket based on better information.
The round of 64 and the round of 32 are Saturday and Sunday next weekend at 10 AM Eastern. Most of Heroes of the Dorm will be broadcast on ESPN3, Twitch, and Youtube. When it gets down to the "Heroic Four" on April 9, the tournament will move to the event center at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, and the semifinals and final will be broadcast on ESPN2. We can only hope sports fans are as amazingly baffled as they were last year.
Rob Zacny is a freelance writer and esports journalist. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Top photo: The finalists at the 2015 Heroes of the Dorm tournament, by Blizzard Entertainment.