The madness of March

Every March, the sports world becomes filled with excitement.  Why?  March Madness, of course.  The thrill of filling out a bracket and watching the Cinderellas dance into the later rounds is one of the greatest spectacles in sports.

I anticipated that this year would be yet another great year, but when the brackets were unveiled, I was filled with somewhat of an empty feeling.  In fact, I wanted to refer to this as “March Sadness.”

The brackets disappointed me.  There wasn’t that sleeper team that could really pull off a run a la Davidson in 2008.  Sure, people were picking some lower seeds such as Dayton, VCU, and Western Kentucky in the opening round games, but no one expected them to get that far.

And none of them did.  Going into the Elite Eight, the lowest seeds remaining were Missouri and Villanova, both at No. 3.  It was plain to see that the higher seeds simply dominated the lower seeds, which, after a while, I realized was actually good for the game.

Instead of seeing a high seed blow out a lower seed in what is supposed to be an extremely meaningful game, the public was treated to some amazing competitions.

Villanova upset Pittsburgh, a team numerous people predicted would win the tournament, 78-76 to make it to the Final Four.  The game was sealed when Villanova guard Scottie Reynolds drove from mid-court to score the game-winning lay-up with five-tenths of a second left on the clock.  The game was an instant classic, with neither team succeeding in opening a lead over four points.  Villanova only missed one free throw the entire game, an incredible feat.

I turned on this game right at the exact moment Reynolds’ runner was tickling the twine, and I knew I had missed out on something special.  The replay of Reynolds juking out Pitt’s DeJuan Blair is ingrained into my memory as one of the best plays in the history of basketball that I have ever seen.

The Villanova-Pitt game sums up the tournament for what this yearly spectacle truly is: one of, if not the greatest, sporting event in American sports.  Nowhere else can Cinderella be from Arizona, and nowhere else can so much high quality basketball be seen at once.

For the quality of play, one just has to look at the Elite Eight matchup of North Carolina against Oklahoma, which featured the two best players in the nation in Tyler Hansbrough from North Carolina and Blake Griffin from Oklahoma.  Both players showed why they are some of the best in the business, with Hansbrough scoring only eight points, but getting his teammates involved in the game, and Griffin scoring 23 points and grabbing 16 rebounds. 

Although North Carolina won 72-60, all who watched knew that they were seeing some of the best players in college basketball history.

This is what March Madness is all about.  Seeing basketball at its best.