It is that time of year once again on the sports calendar: the NCAA basketball tournament, commonly called “March Madness.” Why is it called March Madness? Allow me to explain how maddening it can get. A certain number of teams get a ticket to the “Big Dance” by winning their conference tournament, while others receive at-large bids based on the team’s records. There is only room for sixty-eight teams, so hopefully your team got in. If they lost already, you are probably are already mad.
Let’s start with Liberty University. The team punched their ticket by winning their conference tournament, the Big South, and everyone was excited for the first Cinderella story, until they saw their record. They entered the tournament with a dismal record of 15-20, but the rules allowed them to sneak in.
New York was represented by four teams: Albany, Iona, LIU-Brooklyn and Syracuse. Albany fans may have been nervous that they had to play the Duke Blue Devils because Binghamton, another small New York school, had to play Duke a few years prior and lost. Albany kept it close but was defeated. Iona lost its opening round game against the Ohio State Buckeyes while LIU-Brooklyn was defeated by James Madison University. As for the Syracuse Orangemen, they will take on Indiana in the Sweet Sixteen.
Louisville and Indiana cruised through their opening games. On the other hand, Gonzaga and Kansas had a tough time defeating their sixteen seeded counterparts Southern University and Western Kentucky respectively. It was almost a shock because a No. 16 seed has never defeated a No. 1 seed. Kansas recovered in their next game by blowing out North Carolina, while Gonzaga suffered a loss to Wichita State in the next round that knocked them out of the tournament.
Now that the madness has been covered, it’s time to move to the magical side of the tournament. Harvard won its first NCAA tournament game as a No. 14 seed when they upset the heavily favored third-seeded New Mexico Lobos. Marquette had to come back in the opening game against Davidson after trailing for the majority of the game. In the second round, they had to come back again against Butler as well.
As for the 12 seeds, they had their way with the five seeds. Oregon had an easy time defeating Oklahoma State, Mississippi, a stingy team, had to grind it out against the Wisconsin Badgers, and the California Golden Bears went down to the wire against UNLV. Just a quick history lesson for those who think this might be shocking; a twelve seed always gives a five seed a run for its money.
LaSalle University is another magical tale, as the No. 13 seed managed to defeat Kansas State in coming off their victory in play-in game, using their potent offense. They have no desire for an exit just yet, as they defeated the Mississippi to reach the Sweet Sixteen. LaSalle has some notable alumni, as CBS broadcaster Bill Raftery attended the university and was pleased to announce it to America during one of the games.
Arguably, the greatest tale of March Madness lore is being written by Florida Gulf Coast University. The Eagles won the Atlantic Sun Conference and received a No. 15 seed. A matchup with the Georgetown Hoyas seemed like a formality to the more talented Hoyas. When they met, the records didn’t matter. Florida Gulf Coast was showing everyone that it belonged, as they put on a dunking clinic on its way to a big win. This was only the seventh time a No. 15 seed defeated a No. 2 seed. History tells us that a run was not in the works because no fifteen seed had ever reached the Sweet Sixteen. Their next game was a continuation of the dunking clinic as they defeated San Diego State. How could have anyone predicted this team to go this far? Anyone that bet money on their bracket would not have picked them.
Why is Florida Gulf Coast getting all of the attention, besides being a Cinderella in a year of parity? Well, the school was founded in 1991 and was not a Division I school in the eyes of the NCAA until two seasons ago. Their student enrollment was only a mere 3,000 and the team practiced in high school gyms and at a local community college on weekends, according to Yahoo. As for their next game, they have to go against the Florida Gators, the powerhouse of the state. Will the magic continue, or will the clock strike midnight?
Your bracket may be busted, but try to enjoy the rest of the tournament. Maybe Florida Gulf Coast could pull a George Mason or VCU and advance to the Final Four. Regardless of what happens to the rest of the field, this will be a tournament to remember.