March is Madness, But What Makes it Special?

Around this time year, of everyone in the sports world gets lost in the hysteria of March madness. It is almost a magical time of the year, as the NCAA Tournament is formatted to give everyone an equal shot at claiming the National Championship.

Over the years, we have seen some shockers, such as the Shockers of Wichita State reaching the Final Four in 2013. I was 10 years old when the George Mason Patriots shocked the world and beat the powerhouse UConn Huskies in overtime to reach the Final Four in 2006. I remember exactly where I was when the world witnessed that upset.  Every year it seems the impossible happens, begging the question “What makes this time of year special?”

In order to answer the question we must first look at some other major sports leagues. In the NBA, it is the same two or three teams competing for the title every year. If you are not a fan of the Golden State Warriors, the Cleveland Cavaliers, or the San Antonio Spurs, it is hard to get into the NBA because your team is probably not competing for a title.  Looking at the NFL, it is all about having an elite quarterback, and if your team does not have one, then they probably are not winning that many games. The University of Alabama dominates NCAA FBS college football and that is about it.  Unless you have a transcendent player, like former University of Texas quarterback Vince Young, former Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, or former Florida State Seminole quarterback Jameis Winston, your team probably will not capture a title.

However, college basketball is different.

The format of the 64-team tournament, and the one-and-done rule, creates the feeling that just about everyone has a chance at the title. In college basketball, if you are George Mason, Wichita State, Virginia Commonwealth University, or any other of the other mid-major or small conference teams, you feel like as long as they are in they have a chance to win the National Championship.

March Madness also gives us at least some upsets every time around. This year, there have not been as many as previous seasons, but even in somewhat of a down year we got upsets.  Middle Tennessee State beat Minnesota, Rhode Island came one shot away from the Sweet 16 and Xavier, who lost their two best players during the regular season, hammered a top 10 Florida State team Saturday night.  This time of year everyone has a chance, no other sport can legitimately say that.  The Duke Blue Devils lost to the South Carolina Gamecocks on Sunday, and according to Vegas odds, the Blue Devils were the favorite to win it all.  In the NBA, there is no way the Warriors or Cavs lose to the eighth seed in their conference; but in college basketball, the number one overall seed Villanova lost to eighth seeded Wisconsin.  What other sport does that happen in?  No other sport has that.

The magical thing about this time of year is that everyone feels like they have a chance. The single game elimination provides amazing games because the lesser team can play with nothing to lose. In a seven game series, there is not the urgency that there is in a win or go home scenario.

Therefore, to answer the question, this time of year is magical because the little person has a chance. Duke, North Carolina, and Kentucky do not win every year.  Everyone has a chance, and that makes the tournament “magical.”

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