I love the NCAA Tournament. It’s the greatest sporting event there is. Selection Sunday today essentially kicks off the NCAA Tournament as we learn who’s in, who they play and where they play. Here are just 10 things I love about the NCAA Tournament.
1. Selection Sunday. It’s kind of like the drafts in the NFL and NBA but better, because you only have to wait a few days to find out how the selections panned out, instead of waiting months or years to see who was selected correctly, who was a bust and who was a surprise. Plus, it’s still cool to see your favorite team’s name in the bracket once it’s revealed. Just ask the Cal Poly basketball team what that was like last season.
2. Filling out brackets. Most of us will never know what it’s like to participate in the NCAA Tournament, but by filling out a bracket and tracking the teams we pick to win, we’re connected to the tournament. We now care about a Missouri Valley League or Atlantic Sun Conference team we may never have heard anything about before. We feel like a basketball expert when the 11 or 12 seed we picked to beat a 5 or 6 wins. Especially if that 5 or 6 was touted by Dick Vitale or Jim Nantz to go to the Final Four. And, if you happen to win a little money along the way, even better, right?
3. The lingo. No sporting event has better phrases. March Madness. Final Four. Elite Eight. Sweet 16. The Bubble. Bracketology. RPI. Last Four In. First Four Out. The First Four. One Shining Moment.
4. One Shining Moment. The song played after the championship game as the winning team is cutting down the nets with highlights of the tournament shown, has become such a staple of the tournament that players and coaches even talk about how they want One Shining Moment. You can probably hear the song now. “The ball is tipped and there you are. You’re running for your life, you’re a shooting star.” Awesome.
5. Every game televised live. Before the 2011 tournament, we were at the mercy of CBS. We had to watch whatever game the network put on unless we went online to watch. Sure, CBS gave us live look-ins of close games and took us to thrilling finishes, but it was also contractually obligated to stay with a game from start to finish in local markets. So we had to watch UCLA-Belmont all the way, even if UCLA led by 19 with two minutes to go. That all changed in 2011 when the tournament expanded to TNT, TBS and tru-TV, meaning every tournament game is on live TV and giving remote
flippers everywhere a dream come true.
6. Magic vs. Bird. The 1979 final pitting Magic’s Michigan State team against Bird’s Indiana State squad forever changed college basketball and the NBA. The NCAA Tournament took off after that final and became the monster it is today thanks to the most watched game in tournament history. Magic and Bird also saved the NBA, which was a floundering league until they — and later Michael Jordan — entered the pros. Before Magic and Bird, NBA Finals games often were tape-delayed and aired later that night at 12:30 a.m. Hard to believe, huh?
7. Bo Kimble’s left-handed free throws. The Loyola Marymount right-handed superstar shot his first free throw of every game in the 1990 tournament left-handed to honor friend and teammate Hank Gathers, a lefty, who collapsed and died during the West Coast Conference Tournament that year.
8. 1992 East Regional Final, Duke 104 Kentucky 103, OT. Greatest college basketball game ever.
9. 1983 North Carolina State, 1985 Villanova, 1988 Kansas, 1997 Arizona, 2011 and 2014 Connecticut.
10. The fantastic finishes. U.S. Reed’s half-court heave. Danny Ainge weaving through the entire Notre Dame defense. Lorenzo Charles’ championship dunk. Tate George’s turnaround jumper. Tyus Edney driving the length of the court to save UCLA. 3-pointers by Bryce Drew (winner) and Mario Chalmers (sending title game into OT) And, of course, Christian Laettner’s catch-and-shot perfection against Kentucky.