LINCOLN PARK — For dozens of Lincoln Park's bar owners, the coming weeks could be biggest of the year.
It's March Madness, when the hopes and dreams of 68 Division I college basketball teams rise and fall with every shot.
It's that way for many of the bar owners, too, as nearly every sports bar in the neighborhood holds an allegiance.
Lincoln Park is packed with more home court bars for teams in the tournament than any other neighborhood in the city.
St. Patrick's Day weekend kicks off the busiest two to three weeks of the year, according to the owner of Sedgwick's Bar & Grill, Mike Jannusch.
"It's big, especially coming off a winter where it's been one of the worst winters I've seen," Jannusch said.
Jannusch has been looking forward to the tournament since the end of the college football games in January and has had his eye on the teams that call his bar home.
Missouri, Villanova and a smattering of Duke fans pack Sedgwick's, 1935 N. Sedgwick Ave., when their teams take the court, and things are looking good.
A Final Four appearance for a team could mean big business for the bars serving their fans, who hope new faces return long after the tournament is over.
Back in 2012, Jannusch's teams, Missouri and Duke, each held a No. 2 seed, and each was knocked off in stunning upses in the first round. Missouri fell to Norfolk State and Duke to Lehigh.
"We were excited about it," he said, but "there's not much you can do."
The stories of how these bars gained their allegiances vary from a chance happening in a Las Vegas casino to a deeply rooted family history.
O'Malley's West, 2249 N. Lincoln Ave., was born the stepchild of P T O'Malley's in East Lansing, Mich., on the campus of Michigan State University.
Owner Matt Imig was born in East Lansing, and he, his parents and his sister all went to the school. Two of his cousins played football there.
One of those cousins, Scott Green, was a two-time MVP for the Spartans and went on to the NFL.
"For us, we come by it honestly," Imig said. "It was never a question for us of who we were going to support."
Imig, who opened the bar in 2000, said it's become part of the playbook that anytime you open a bar these days, you have to choose which college and pro teams to support. But he said many new owners don't have deep ties to their teams.
"It wasn't exactly like that in 2000," he said.
Each of Sedgwick's teams has a different backstory.
Missouri was an obvious choice, as the bar is a St. Louis Cardinals haven. A manager 10 years ago was a Villanova fan, and over the years the bar has taken on that allegiance.
But the craziest story of all is the one behind Duke.
In 1999, Jannusch was sitting next to Chicago Bears longsnapper Patrick Mannelly at a blackjack table in Las Vegas when Mannelly said he was looking for a place to watch Duke games back in Chicago.
"That's how Duke came about," Jannusch said.
Michigan State has seen its share of success in the tournament.
Imig said he always jokes with family and friends and people who say he looks really nervous about the tournament games.
"I'm like, we get hit twice: Not only are we fans, but we aren't stupid," he said. "We love the business that comes along with it. We are always really pulling for them to go as far as they can."
The first round of games (technically second if you count the play-in games) kick off March 20 and March 21.
The hope is to lock in a night game, and if your team is lucky enough to make it past the first game, a Saturday slot.
"We are hoping people get out of hibernation, finally, after this brutal winter and want to let loose a little bit," Jannusch said.
Here's a list of some places connected to university teams:
2423 N. Clark St.
Sully’s Public House
1501 N. Dayton St.
2758 N. Ashland Ave.
950 W. Armitage Ave.
2548 N. Southport Ave.
1638 W. Belmont Ave.
420 W Diversey
2249 N. Lincoln Ave.
345 W. Armitage Ave.
McGee’s Tavern and Grille
950 W. Webster Ave.
St. Louis University
2138 N. Halsted St.
The Beer Bistro North
1415 W. Fullerton Ave.
Stanley’s Kitchen and Tap
1970 N. Lincoln Ave.
Will’s Northwoods Inn
3030 N. Racine Ave.
1935 N. Sedgwick St.