By Joe Kotoch
As this final weekend of the NCAA regular season approaches diehard fans, casual fans, and nonfans alike all will be watching to assess the contenders and pretenders. No other sport has such a large bandwagon that piles up as the season wears on.
In March, everyone fills out a bracket like it is a rite of passage. Zany theories and bizarre trends are legitimized in the name of March Madness. Fans will rationalize a way in which their overmatched team will make a deep run into the tournament. Coworkers that haven’t watched one game all season will make their choices based on school mascots or uniform colors. Other than the Super Bowl no other event permits or encourages gambling quite like the Big Dance. People enter into large pools among friends, coworkers, and acquaintances intending to win. Inevitably a Cinderella will emerge and shatter the dreams of countless fans and competitors in the pool. For the diehards and “experts” who meticulously fill out their bracket by the end of the tournament they are having horrific visions like Natalie Portman in Black Swan.
Why did I bring this up? Simple this year is loaded with uncertainty and unrealistic hope. BYU led by sensation Jimmer Fredette are in a position for a 1 seed. Over the last 3 weeks the top ranked team has been a game of musical chairs. The Big East is loaded with talented teams that have realistic dreams of cutting down the nets.
March Madness has always been about the players. In college basketball to succeed a team must be led by a special player. Realistically, there are about 15 teams with star players that can singlehandedly win games this month. The tournament becomes most compelling when those players are matched up against other teams with stars. Don’t forget that March makes stars. Many people forgot about Jordan Crawford until he led Xavier last postseason, Gordon Heyward was a lottery pick because of his March run. At the end of the day several unknown or below-the-radar players will become household names. Perhaps Tu Holloway, Tyler Honeycutt, or Norris Cole could be the darlings of March.
One thing remains certain while no one knows or can predict what will happen in the tournament, millions and millions of people will clamor in front of the TV, computer, radio, or in the arena to take part in this beloved event. Players will make or lose millions with their performances while fans and observers will live and die with every basket, travel, and foul. Here’s hoping for a fun and exciting March, after all it’s that time of the year.