What’s that in the air?
Something more than dust
March Madness is in the air, and I can feel the electricity flowing through the ether, waiting to strike an unsuspecting pedestrian. The madness can strike at any time, whether you’re at work or in your car driving home from a long day. No one is safe.
The month is full of energy, and I can see it in the faces of every man, woman and child — people rooting for their home team or just a favorite from their past. Grown men yelling at a television set and saying last-second prayers as a little orange ball flies through the air and the last seconds tick from the clock.
Memories float back into our minds of greats, like the Fab Five of Michigan or the University of Houston’s Phi Slamma Jamma. From Christian Laetner’s last second half-court killer to the dominating Duke backcourt.
Even language changes in March. People start using words like bubble teams and sleepers, and suddenly acronyms like RPI become very important. People begin to talk of Pac-10 bids and ACC match-ups. The Big 10 and the Big 12 are on everyone’s minds.
No other time of the year does the Associated Press become such an important part of a sports fan’s life as the polls place the post-season fates of dozens of teams in their collective hands.
This is what the geniuses at ESPN label championship week — the week when unranked teams try to battle their way through their respective conference tournaments to try and gain that one guaranteed NCAA tournament team.
Cellar-dwellers scratch and claw their way toward fulfilling post-season dreams, while onlookers sit glued to their television sets rooting for whichever underdog happens to be playing that day. Brackets full of names of schools many wouldn’t even know existed without the NCAA tournaments start to circulate through office buildings this time of year.
Honestly, before I got into college basketball, I had never heard of half the schools in my bracket, like Loyola Marymont — where are they from? Take a perenial tournament team like Xavier. Tell me truthfully: how many of you know where Xavier is located, and of those who do (be honest), how many knew who they were before you saw their name show up in a tournament bracket?
This is the week when people from even here in New Mexico will pay attention to a game between Marquette and Louisville or turn on their television to see how William and Mary University fared in thier tournament game. This week gives even the weakest of teams a shot to be the Cinderella story and shock the nation with timely defeats of the conference favorites.
March Madness has even spread as far south as UNM and NMSU. Though UNM is still alive in the MWC tournament, NMSU suffered a heart-breaking loss at the buzzer to a top-20 team in the semi-final round of their tournament.
From tournament teams that seem to come alive in the post-season, like the Gonzaga Bulldogs, to tournament duds who shed their top ranking and go home after the first round, basketball is in the air and has now reached the long anticipated climax.