The Ides of March Madness

Welcome to March. With spring right around the corner, sports fans and casual bracket makers know that with the college basketball season ending, March Madness has arrived. For years, the National Collegiate Athletic Association Tournament has been one of the most exciting playoffs in sports with 68 teams squaring off to determine the best team in men’s college basketball. Over the years, it has become very popular for fans, casual viewers and even those that may not watch college basketball, to make March Madness brackets. Sophomore Mary Helsper is an avid March Madness fan.

“Compared to the NBA playoffs I think March Madness is a more exciting tournament because there are so many teams and there is no certainty as to who is going to win each game and go far in the tournament because of upsets. You have times where all number one ranked teams make it to the Final Four and other times where random lower ranked teams make their way to the Final Four,” said Helsper.

Almost every year, fans around the country will fall in love with a lower ranked “cinderella” team and hope for the upset of a higher ranked team, thus defying the odds put against them and busting brackets throughout America. March Madness is any team’s tournament to win which makes it one of the most exciting playoffs in sports.

With teams ending their league tournaments before the bracket announcement this past week, the rankings ended with John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats as the number one team with an impressive record of 34-0. The runner ups from last year have relied all season on one of the nation’s top defenses holding their opponents to an average of 53 points per game while averaging 75 points on offense.

“Kentucky has a great overall team and has one of the best teams that I have seen in a while. They have great coaches and players that have an excellent chance of winning it all,” said freshman Andrew Simmons.

While Kentucky has the attention of the nation right now, there are several nearby regional teams that could make a splash after the tournament starts. Local powerhouses Georgetown and Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) have had terrific seasons with both teams ranking in the Top 25 at some point this year. However, The University of Virginia (UVA) has shown this year that their number one seed from the 2013-2014 tournament was no fluke. The Cavaliers currently sit at 29-3 as the number six team in college basketball but lost to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the ACC tournament.

“UVA could definitely make a deep run in the tournament considering they are 29-3 and ranked 1st in the ACC with other good teams like UNC and Notre Dame. One of their only losses was to Duke, who are 29-4 and 2nd in the ACC… If they see each other again in the NCAA Tournament, UVA could redeem themselves and beat Duke,” said Helsper.

With all of the hype surrounding March Madness, there is always a group of teams that get left out. While reaching the NCAA Tournament is the main goal for most teams, the National Invitational Tournament (NIT) is also a possibility for bubble teams that didn’t make the big dance to make their mark. However, in recent years the NIT has been seen as a consolation prize for a team after a disappointing end to the season. Sophomore Connor van Kirk said:

“The NIT isn’t really important unless your team is playing in it,” said van Kirk.

Unfortunately, the NIT is seen as the best of the worst, playing with all the teams that were unable to make the NCAA tournament. In recent years there has been controversy in all of college sports, but specifically college basketball, on the number of years an athlete should have to stay in college before they can go pro. In recent years,the practice of “one and done” has been used quite frequently throughout college basketball. It refers to high school basketball stars coming to college for only one year before entering the NBA. Many of Calipari’s teams over the years have been headlined with “one and done” players who have gone on to become NBA stars. They include John Wall and Anthony Davis. With the possibility of having a career ending injury, many people think that it is important to graduate and have a non basketball career to fall back on.

“I guess I would say like college football, three years,” said van Kirk, when asked about the time a basketball star should be required to spend in college.

Freshman or senior, NIT or NCAA, fans will not be disappointed with what looks to be another great set of teams battling it out this March.


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