The men's college basketball regular season is done. Conference Tournaments have come and gone. Selection Sunday is now over. It can all only mean one thing. The arrival of March Madness ! In my opinion, there is no other greater postseason in either professional or collegiate sports today. Certainly, the Hunt for October in MLB comes close, and the NHL Playoffs will usually live up to the hype. Perhaps the Champions League can create a similar feeling, but it is not quite a postseason and stretches itself out for many months, as compared to the NCAA Tournament’s quick, sudden turnaround. And while the Super Bowl holds a special place in American pop culture today, each preceding game does not carry the same emotion or drama that the early games of the NCAA Tournament maintain.
I can still vividly today recall some of my early memories of March Madness.
I remember, my beloved UMD Terrapins were playing in one of the early games on a school day, and so in my gym class, we were given a free day. Those that wanted to watch the game could do so while others were free to do as they pleased.
I remember years upon years of filling out brackets, trying to pick the best potential upsets, all the while being wholly optimistic with my choice for champion. No feeling quite matches having your bracket busted with a major upset, nor the elation emanating from when you pick an upset that nobody else saw coming.
I remember reenacting crazy buzzer beaters with friends, trying to see who could pull off the hand-in-your-face fadeaway three-point shot from the corner with time expiring.
And of course, I remember watching game after game, not growing tired of basketball, but yearning for more and more of it.
March Madness is one of the most special times in the sports year, and there are so many reasons why it deserves the credit it receives. By some standards, the postseason should always be regarded with high esteem, but the NCAA Tournament’s legacy runs deeper than that.
Firstly, as March Madness gets under way, a viewer will find that games are on constantly, and on multiple different television channels. Every game gets televised, followed on some social media platform, connected via a March Madness specific app, or streamed live on the internet . The media coverage surrounding the event is incredible. Furthermore, every game matters; a loss means that a team is out, and make no mistake, the players are giving it their all on the court. With the caliber of the teams involved, only a few mistakes could cost a team the game. No team is safe.
Secondly, March Madness gives fans some of the greatest storylines to follow. From the moment that teams are seeded, fans begin to cast teams as heroes and villains – if they were not so already. Dynasties are often cast in the latter role, as schools like Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, UNC are often jeered by the general fan populace.
However, beyond this, March Madness presents an opportunity to see teams grow, especially after repeated runs to the Tourney, such as Wichita State. Sometimes, as fans, we are fortunate enough to see a team of senior veterans go deep into the tournament. Or other times, a freshman sensation rocks the tournament, or a rising star leaves his mark.
Sometimes, even, a storyline will become a tale of legend. Take for instance Stephen Curry’s run with Davidson back in the 2008 NCAA Tournament. His role helped catapult him to a high draft pick in the NBA Draft. Eight years later, he has won both the NBA MVP Award and a championship and is considered one of the greatest players in the league.
Or, look at Florida Gulf Coast’s run in the 2013 NCAA Tournament. They became the first 15 seed to reach the Sweet Sixteen in March Madness history. Their legacy in the historic run is cemented with the moniker, “Dunk City.”
Thirdly, no NCAA Tournament is left without its epic video montage set to “One Shining Moment,” by David Barrett. The song itself has a great history , but it is used as the backdrop every year for each NCAA Tournament.
Lastly, but most importantly, are the historic upsets that come each and every year. They are almost always fun to see, except when it is your team on the receiving end. In the NCAA Tournament, an underdog can thrive. Mismatches, experience, luck -- there are many reasons for upsets. Either way, they are one of the biggest reasons that March Madness is “mad.”
March Madness is one of the best moments in the sports year. Situated in the lull after the Super Bowl, but before the NBA and NHL Playoffs take off, as well as the start of baseball season, the NCAA Tournament takes the sports world by storm every year. It is an absolutely special moment every year around, and it never ceases to disappoint. It starts with a large 68 teams, and then it dwindles down until there is only one -- the national champion. March Madness, here we come.