It’s called “March Madness” for a reason and after all has been said and done, disregarding the outcome of the Championship game, this has been the maddest March in college basketball history.
Year after year, we sit and watch college basketball, analyze strength of schedule, study numbers, matchups and standings in the hope of filling a perfect bracket or at least a bracket good enough to win money from our friends. Year after year, we also take our team too far, lose our champion Week One, take a “Cinderella” one round too far or, in this year’s case, not far enough.
To kick off the madness that was this March, we saw a No. 16 seed finally beat a No. 1 seed, and not just a No. 1, but THE No. 1. During the first weekend of the tournament this year more championship favorites fell than advanced.
During the first weekend of the tournament we lost Virginia, Arizona, Tennessee, Cincinnati, Xavier, Missouri, Ohio State, UNC, Auburn, Michigan State and Oklahoma. Some of these teams bowed out during their first games.
There was no way to predict the No. 1 seed would get knocked off Day Two of the tournament, or that Tom Izzo’s Michigan State would lose in the second round to a Syracuse team who had to play a “play-in” game to make the tournament.
And, there was certainly no way to predict a No. 11 seed would be in the Final Four.
This year’s Cinderella story, Loyola-Chicago, went from hitting a buzzer-beater in their first game to knock off No. 6 Miami, to making it to the Final Four. This was absolutely insane, and a fun story to watch as they were backed by Sister Jean, a chaplain for the Ramblers, all the way.
There was simply no way to predict this. Every team brings intangibles to the tournament, sometimes it’s players we’ve never heard of rise to the occasion and hit clutch baskets. These intangibles are immeasurable – you can’t check ESPN to see how clutch a mid-major team will be, or if a team will rally behind a nun and make it the Final Four. There is no way to know, which makes it all the more impossible to predict what will happen in March.
Regardless Villanova’s national title, Loyola-Chicago’s historic Final Four run, the Elite Eight which featured two No. 9 seeds and then a No. 11 seed and a No. 16 seed playing a second game are all reason to consider this the maddest March we’ve had in our lifetime.
And, a final thought on college basketball and the tournament:
College basketball is a unicorn.
The age old saying goes, “Offense wins games, but defense wins championships.” But, this no longer applies to college basketball. College basketball this season featured two of the best defenses in the history of college basketball, Virginia and Cincinnati. Statistics back this up — it was simply hard to put up points on these teams — yet, they both left the tournament this year after the first weekend.
Simply put, if you can score, you will win games in college basketball. That’s why this year’s championship featured two offensively dominant teams. Villanova’s offense broke records. Teams that can score will succeed in the post-season. In almost every other realm of sport, defense will win championships, but not college basketball.
That’s why we’ll keep filling out brackets, losing money, cursing the Cinderellas but begrudgingly cheering for them. That’s why we’ll be back next year to watch the madness that is March.