March Madness is the pinnacle of college sports. One only has took look at the annual March Madness video. It offers the Why. Last-second heroics. Stunning upsets. Blinding emotion. It is quintessential encapsulation of the iconic phrase, “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.”
College sports continue to thrive in this era of professionalism and commercialization. It does so because of the joy and passion in the game. We can all remember the greatest moments in NCAA tournament history. There was Christian Laettner’s turnaround. Who can forget Lorenzo Charles’ dunk at the buzzer in the famed Survive and Advance season? There was Steph Curry’s improbable tournament run with Davidson. And most recently, we had Kris Jenkins dragger three to win the championship for Villanova.
People love March Madness because of the history. The tournament you know today really started in 1985, when the tournament expanded to 64 teams. This allowed mid-majors and other small schools to make the tournament consistently. March Madness today is known those high-powered mid-majors, but it wasn’t really until 1989 that it became a focal point. That year, #1 seed Georgetown played #16 Princeton in a back and forth game. At the game drew to a conclusion, Princeton was only down one, 49-50, and had a chance to take the last shot. It was blocked (many will tell you it was a foul), but the game nonetheless captivated America. Games like these are why CBS signed an 8 year, 8.8 billion (yes, b) deal to exclusively cover the tournament.
The #1 seeds have been announced and there really were no surprises: Villanova, UNC, KU and Gonzaga. Villanova is looking to repeat as champions and are led by senior Josh Hart. North Carolina are a strong team, but after being trounced by Duke in the ACC tournament, they need to rebound (excuse the pun). Kansas are perennial under-performers in the tournament, but this talented team has a great chance to break the streak. I said this evening that it may be KU’s year with a very favorable set of venues in the early rounds [first in Tulsa and then at the Sprint Center in Kansas City (or Allen Fieldhouse East as it is called given that it is just 42 miles from campus)]. Finally, Gonzaga are a strong team, but a weak schedule has led many to believe that they are overrated, similar to the strong Boise State football teams.
A number of players have a solid chance to make a major impact in the tournament. Lonzo Ball is being touted as the consensus #1 draft pick. He has a silky jump shot coupled with fast-twitch athleticism. The combination makes him extremely hard for anyone to guard. While Greyson Allen has had a rollercoaster and disappointing year, look for him to step up in the tournament Finally, Frank Mason III has one more chance to deliver a championship to the KU faithful. You can expect fireworks for him.
No matter how much we stress over our brackets, there will be an upset no one sees coming. The clock will strike midnight for a crowd favorite underdog. Tears will flow from Seniors as their last chance at immortality slips away. Diaper Dandies will shine. Prepare for the greatest annual event in American Sports. Prepare for Madness.