The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is arguably the most exciting three weeks in basketball in America. The upsets. The extraordinary individual performances. Unforgettable games. And… the best team doesn’t always win. In my eyes, this year’s tournament thus far has been the epitome of that statement.
I feel that the team that is the hottest coming into the tournament, as well as the healthiest will win it. Not necessarily the team with the most talent or the best coaching.
The first weekend proved that. Missouri and Duke became the fifth and sixth teams in NCAA tournament history to lose a fifteen versus two matchup; Duke lost to Lehigh, while Missouri was stunned by Norfolk State. Did Norfolk State and Lehigh each have more talent coming into those games?
No, they didn’t. They simply were the better team on that day; those players believed in one another and were out to prove everyone wrong. That is the beauty of the NCAA tournament. One team doesn’t necessarily have to be better than the other; that team just has to be better on that day.
Following those monumental upsets, Lehigh and Norfolk State promptly crash-landed back to reality in the round of thirty-two, in their losses to Florida and Xavier. The tournament has also featured teams that suffered major breaks (no pun intended) in injuries, as well has having players ruled ineligible.
North Carolina had its Point Guard, Kendall Marshall, suffer a broken wrist in their victory against Creighton. North Carolina advanced into the Elite Eight without Marshall, but fell short of a Final Four berth in losing to Kansas. Kansas State had arguably its best rebounding player be ruled ineligible before their matchup against Syracuse. Syracuse eventually went on to win that game, and advance into the Sweet 16.
In a way, the drama and the excitement created by these storylines in the tournament is why we watch it. Just look ahead to next week’s Final Four matchups. Kentucky plays Louisville in the first game, in what some people are calling the “Bluegrass Armageddon”. Ohio State plays Kansas in a battle of two future NBA big-men in Jared Sullinger and Thomas Robinson. Regardless if your team is one of those Final Four or not, you know that you will be watching.
I know I will.