I love the NCAA men’s basketball tournament which begins this week. 68 teams are in, and as usual teams # 69, 70 etc. feel they were unfairly left out. Other teams felt they got a bad draw, etc. They could expand the field to 128 teams and team # 129 would feel jilted. That’s just the way it is.
I know college football pays the athletic freight at major universities with 100,000 seat stadiums, mega donations etc. but men’s basketball was always my passion. Having grown up in New Jersey and attending Rutgers in the early 70s (the last period of their sustained basketball success) I always enjoyed the performance of East Coast basketball programs.
In fact the NIT was still big stuff in that era, though it’s become a third tier tournament with no cache. Imagine a tournament with Villanova, Oklahoma, Virginia, Duke, West Virginia, and Maryland. That’s what the NIT would look like today in the “old rules” where only the conference champ went to the NCAA tourney.
The next three weeks will be wild especially the next two. It is process that makes the tourney great. There will be 48 games played from Thursday-Sunday. No doubt there will be buzzer beaters, upsets, and some new stars will be born or “discovered” by the nation. There will be Cinderella teams with double digit seeding that make it to the Sweet 16. They rarely make it into the Final Four however.
One of the things I also love about the NCAA tournament are the millions of “brackets” which are filled out and the incredibly small odds each of us have in correctly filling out their brackets. It’s the Cinderellas that ultimately ruin brackets when the high seeds fall. But millions of people including myself will be tracking how we are doing and pray for the teams we selected.
The irony is that by the time we reach the Final Four, this year in Houston at NRG stadium, there are merely 3 basketball games—2 semis and 1 final game- with far less drama that the early rounds. I usually fall asleep in the Final game played on Monday evening.
I’ll be watching along with millions of others. Maryland Terrapins all the way (maybe).