The Magic of March Madness

Topher Wagner, Sentry Staff Reporter

The beginning of spring is a magical time in sports: professional hockey and basketball are in full swing, and baseball is just around the corner. However, there is one event that captivates millions of fans every year, beginning at the end of March.  Even before the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) College Basketball Tournament started, fans around the country began making bracket pools and researching their upset selections. In recent years, interest in the tournament has continued to increase from college basketball fans and casual viewers alike, with millions of Americans filling out bracket predictions in money pools or just for fun.

“March Madness has changed over the years because basketball has gotten more and more popular around the world. Also, casual fans become invested in the tournament because of bracket challenges,” said junior Christian Cleveland.    

This men’s college basketball season has been a unique one in terms of the number of total upsets. While only one team (Kentucky) was ranked number one overall in the Associated Press (AP) poll for the entirety of last season, six different teams have already held the top spot in the weekly poll thus far. While the March Madness tournament has always been popular for its upsets and “Cinderella” teams, many fans and bracketologists believe that this tournament could have the most upsets ever.

Despite all of the upsets this season, several teams have distanced themselves from the rest of the pack, showing that they can compete with the best teams in the nation. Current AP number one ranked Kansas sports an impressive record of 30-4, winning fourteen straight games. This streak included wins over then ranked number three Oklahoma and number ten West Virginia. Led by senior Perry Ellis and sophomore Frank Mason III, the Jayhawks look to overcome past failures in the tournament and make a run at the title.

However, several teams stand in Kansas’ way, as Michigan State, Villanova, and Virginia look to take over the top spot in the rankings over the final weeks of the regular season. All teams were selected to the tournament last year and have coaches with vast March Madness

While the top ranked teams attempt to make a run, not everyone agrees on who will make the Final Four.

“Kansas, Michigan St., Maryland, and Texas,” said freshman fanatic Ryan Van Kirk. “Kansas has great all around play and good leaders like Perry Ellis and Wayne Selden Jr. Michigan state has great guard play and decent post players,”

Whether it’s the school’s mascot, the uniforms of the team or actual basketball knowledge, everyone has a different strategy in picking their March Madness bracket.

“I always put my family’s teams to the end of the bracket. Most of my family graduated from or currently attends UVA, so we have a lot of spirit and love for their basketball team,” said junior Megan Carolla. “If I am unfamiliar with a team, my strategy is to look at their stats for the season online and try to base their placement off of that,”

Every year, it seems there are bracket pickers who believe that that  tournament will finally be the year when a 16 seed (the lowest seed) beats a one seed in the first round. The lowest seeds always play the highest seeds every year in the first round. In the history of the NCAA Tournament, 16 seeds have gone a combined 0-124 vs top ranked teams. However, anything is possible, and this year there might be a better chance than ever for a 16 seed upset to happen.

“Unlike last year, there are no teams that are exceptionally dominant, so I would not be shocked if this was the year of the upset,” said Cleveland.

Bracket makers always have to be aware of Cinderella teams, such as George Mason in 2006, Butler in 2010 and Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in 2011. A Cinderella seems to happen almost every year in March Madness. These are teams that the public falls in love with as they defy the odds and upset the powerhouse teams to make a run to the Final Four.

Regardless of a person’s preference, it is not hard to see how people across America become obsessed with March Madness. Unlike other tournaments in sports, the size of March Madness gives any team a chance to make a run or win it all. Some of the greatest moments in college basketball history have happened in March, and we as fans hope for that trend to continue this year.