Finally! The snow is receding, the ice is melting, the birds are chirping… Typically, this means that baseball is just around the corner. But there is one event that commands our attention before we focus on America’s pastime, and that is the wonder and excitement of Men’s College Basketball.
Selection Sunday was last weekend, and now the brackets are set, and we are underway with round one. Forty-eight basketball games are scheduled for the first weekend of the tournament, and all of these kids will try anything to prove themselves as champions.
One thing sports fans often forget about when it comes to college sports is that the athletes are not only full time students, but they are typically 18, 19 or 20 year olds. Some of the freshmen have never been away from home for more than a weekend, and now they are competing on a national level under the potential scrutiny of ruthless sports pundits on ESPN U, a 24/7 channel dedicated to college sports.
Their age just makes the tournament all the more exciting. They haven’t been competing and dominating for decades like a Kobe Bryant in the NBA. At the most, this is only their fourth tournament, and even that accomplishment is a rare feat. These are just kids, most of them are younger than me by now, and they are prone to acting like they have never seen a basketball before. Missed layups, flagrant fouls, shot clock violations, botched dunks, double dribbles, travelling and even air balling free throws–mistakes are definitely abundant. But the most exhilarating part of the “Big Dance” is all the heroics that take place.
The main reason why I watch the NCAA Championship Tournament is that every year is unpredictable. Yet the most exciting and heroic qualities in sports are guaranteed, such as every year a Cinderella team upsets everyone’s brackets by beating top seeds and going to the sweet sixteen; there are more last-second, game-winning shots in the tournament than the entire regular season; and there is almost always a game that goes into triple overtime well past midnight with the players barely being able to run half speed due to exhaustion.
This is what makes college basketball so entertaining: It’s predictably unpredictable. Therefore, every sports fan should get glued to a TV this weekend and watch the madness commence. After all, it only happens once a year.
Finally, my “Final Four” picks for the 2012 NCAA Championship Tournament are Michigan State, Kentucky, Syracuse and Kansas. And I believe Michigan State will defeat Kansas in the Championship Game to cut down the nets.
Play the ESPN Bracket Tournament Challenge here.
Michael is a Sports Writer for the 2011-2012 season of The Concordian.