Conference tournaments are ending, your studying bracketology rather than biology, Joe Lunardi is on ESPN for the 12 hours minimum a day, In and Out no longer has anything to do with the fast food chain, and you care more about your team’s RPI rather than your own GPA. What could this possibly mean? Oh, that’s right, it’s time for March Madness!
A college basketball fan and an amateur gambler’s Christmas, the NCAA Tournament is one of the top moments in a year for all sports fans. Filling out bracket’s and entering tournament pools are customary of anyone who even has a mild interest in College Basketball (of course, that would only be the case if gambling were legal, which its not). Every year, every fan thinks that they are filling out the perfect bracket, that every upset will happen, and that for once, they will finally win their pool. Of course, all of this is spoiled when Davidson goes to the Elite Eight or George Mason and Wichita State are playing in the Sweet 16. All of a sudden, you understand why Adam Morrison cried like he was getting a glimpse of what his pro career would be like, rather than losing a heartbreaker to UCLA.
March Madness is also about the battle of Favorites taking on Underdogs and Davids vs. Goliaths. It’s where the 5-12 game lives. It’s where Cinderella’s like VCU, Western Kentucky, and Valparaiso make names for themselves in history. It’s where Santa Clara, Hampton, Richmond, and Coppin State become trivia answers to “which 15 seeds have defeated a two seed”. It’s where George Mason sees application numbers jump through the roof, not because of academic reasons, but because their basketball team beat #6 Michigan State, #3 North Carolina, #7 Wichita State, and #1 UConn in a row to get to the final four. It’s where Eric Maynor and Bryce Drew will live on forever. And it’s why the opening round of the tournament features some of the best basketball games of the year.
March Madness also provides fans with some of the best play-by-play calls heard in sporting history. Upsets and dramatics bring out the best in CBS’ broadcasters. Nothing can sum it up better than this YouTube video of the best of Gus Johnson, the most excited announcer in the history of sports broadcasting, to the music of Fort Minor
March Madness allows for the breakdown an entire season worth of games and put the worth of a team’s wins and losses into their seeding in greatest tournament in all of sports. For everything the BCS is not in College Football, the NCAA Tournament is its opposite in College Basketball. It provides for the perfect amount of teams to be selected to play. 65 schools are given a shot to win the National Championship, all you have to do is win six straight games (7 if you are the 16 seed out of the play in game) and the ‘ship is yours. There are juggernauts from the Major conferences, the conference tournament winners from Mid Majors, and Bubble teams who had to sweat out Selection Sunday to see if they would even make it. The drama surrounding teams asking will they or won’t they be in makes for a huge part of the excitement of the Tournament.
That’s what makes today’s Selection Sunday so meaningful, the impact it has on those bubble teams. As all College Basketball fans know, this may be the final year of the Tournament as we know it. With the NCAA in talks of expanding March Madness from 65 to 96 teams in order to increase revenue, who knows if we will even hear the words “Bubble Watch” again. With the expansion in total teams likely to happen next year, less and less controversy and excitement take place preceding the playing of the games that adds a little extra enjoyment to a seemingly perfect event. But once again in sports, it’s ALWAYS about the money.
Even if the tournament does expand, no one can say the games will be less exciting. Every fan will tune in again as all it will basically mean is it’ll be even harder to pick a perfect bracket than ever before. The tourney has expanded before and it still seems to work pretty well today. I’m not saying it’s a good thing, or a bad thing, but don’t automatically dismiss it.
When all the teams are picked, the brackets are set, and fans break down every possible matchup, don’t think about any changes to formatting or which seeds didn’t get it. Just think about the exciting basketball we fans of this great sport are about to witness. So turn on your TV, put “One Shinning Moment” on a continuous loop, and become consumed in Madness. Folks, the NCAA Tournament is about to begin.