Prelude to Madness

by Rich

Selection Sunday has come and gone, and now all there is for college basketball fans is time. Thursday’s games seem a month away, and forgive me if I’m less than enthused about the play-in-game this year. The only time I have ever actually wanted to see that “opening round” game was 2007, when Niagara played Florida A&M for the honor of  catching an “end-of-There-Will-Be-Blood”-style beatdown from Kansas.  With the local tie-in absent  this year, I can’t really bring myself to care about the 64th and 65th teams in the field fighting for the honor of being Louisville’s first-round sacrificial lamb. I’ll still watch it, of course….but it won’t take precedence over my bracket (or trying to scrounge up some tickets for the Syracuse game here in Miami, but that’s a whole different issue).

To be honest though, these days before the tournament starts are their own unique kind of fun. The bracket exists for almost four days in a state of perfection. Everything is debatable, and nothing is settled. It doesn’t matter what the state of your team is, as long as they’re in. Everybody knows that crazy things happen in March, and everyone wants to believe that their guys are going to be the next group to shock the world.

No matter what your team’s situation, there’s reason to be optimistic.  Low-seeded power-conference teams murmur “you don’t know what we’ve been through in the Big East/ACC… it’s hardened us and we’re ready for March!” Mid-majors play the six degrees of separation game with their records, noticing that they beat a team that beat a team that beat Duke, so maybe they do have a shot at this thing. Even in the gyms where the 15 and 16 seeds practice, where the players and coaches know the odds against them are absolutely rediculous, people say crazy things this time of year. They have a good practice, and people are looking at each other, smiling. People say things like “you know, if we make some threes early, get a couple turnovers…” Those types of thoughts start many different ways, but they seem to end the same: with a shrug and a simple “you never know.”

And that’s what I love about March.  You never know.