Out of the 12 months in a year, some are frankly better than others. Some people might say December is the best month because families come together during the holidays. How about November being a great time to give thanks? Maybe one of the summer months, because the weather and freedom are both so enjoyable. All of these months, however, are truly abysmal compared to one: March. According to AB Bugg (‘16), “March Madness should be a national holiday.”
The NCAA Tournament is undoubtedly the most exciting postseason in all of sports. In other sports, such as Major League Baseball and NBA, the playoffs are split up into best-of-seven series. While these postseasons are exciting and full of drama, no other postseason provides the suspense, intensity, passion, story lines, heartbreak, and joy March Madness provides through a win-or-go-home format. Gordon Granger (‘16) expressed his love for the tournament by saying, “I love March Madness because there’s nothing else like it in sports. The excitement, the unpredictability, and the emerging heroes that seemingly come from nowhere.”
One of my favorite parts of the system is the opportunity provided by the conference tournaments. Every single team in college basketball has a chance. If you went (0-30) and did not shoot over 15% in any game that season, you still have the opportunity to make a run at the big dance and win the National Championship. While this may not have ever happened, some really bad teams have found a way to make it into the tournament. Sure, the odds of this situation are minuscule, but they exist. Every team has a chance to make it into the tournament, and as we have learned in the past, once you get into the tournament, anything is possible.
The second aspect that is so enjoyable is the drama. Absolutely nothing beats a college basketball game where an entire season is on the line with only seconds left on the clock. With 64 teams playing in the first round, there will always be a fair number of games that come down to the very last play; the buzzer beater sends one fan base into euphoric hysteria, the other into indescribable, heartbreaking pain. Most fans know the feeling of having your team’s heart ripped out, which makes it all the more sweeter when your teams rips out the heart of the opposing team. Only 1.3% of college players end up playing professionally, which makes college basketball even more special. A majority of these kids realize this is the end of their basketball career, which renders the high intensity and passion seen in the games. This tension creates an atmosphere in which scrutiny is heightened, every error magnified and criticized, and every success praised and adored. “I love March Madness,” states Grant Gorsline (‘16), “because it allows me to root for my favorite teams in the best display of competition the athletic realm has to offer.”
We end with the Cinderella story. Every year a certain team makes a run that is unpredictable. Some of these runs are greater than others, but there is always at least one team that seems to have something magical about them. Some of the most notable runs in the past few years have been George Mason getting to the Final Four, Davidson making it to the Elite Eight, a Butler squad making the National Championship back to back years, and VCU embarking on an incredible Final Four run of their own. These teams give hope to the little guy. They give hope to every team that they can be the next Cinderella. When these teams make their run, they have the whole country behind them. Everybody loves an underdog story, and there are plenty of those when March rolls around. EJ Patterson (‘16) states, “As someone who has been on many basketball teams, I love watching another team come together to pull off that unexpected upset.”
This year is a special year in college basketball. Never before have we seen such an even landscape of teams. This season has consisted of upset after upset, with more losses by the top ten ranked teams than ever before. The nationwide absence of dominance has lead to a beautiful, anarchical basketball landscape. This means that this year’s NCAA Tournament may in fact be the best. Upsets have already happened, but the true Cinderella will be hard to identify until the latter part of the tournament. If there’s anything we have learned this season, it’s that we can predict absolutely nothing, but here is my aimless bracket attempt at it this year. There are Cinderella’s in the making this year, with 15th seed Middle Tennessee State knocking off the highly touted Michigan State Spartans, and 14th seed Stephen F. Austin taking out the West Virginia Mountaineers. There is much drama yet to unfold, but so far, the tournament has not disappointed.
After it’s all over, and we get to watch the montage of highlights from the tournament known as One Shining Moment, we will have reached the culmination of another basketball season filled with beautiful chaos, which we can simply call the Road to Houston. Ellie Fleming (‘16) may have put it best, saying, “March Madness is undoubtedly the best time of the year. You never know what’s going to happen–anyone can win and beat the odds, which makes it so fun to watch even though this means that my brackets are usually terrible. It’s amazing basketball and the best sports tournament there is.”