March Madness: Making nobodies somebodies

With 20 upsets, five overtime or double-overtime games and a David Vs. Goliath national final that was inches from crowning the improbable, the NCAA Basketball National Tournament has officially taken over as sport’s most exciting moment of the year.

It completely drubs out the inaccurate Bowl Championship Series, the often over-hyped Super Bowl and the World Series, which goes to whatever team’s owner owns the most Swiss bank accounts. Don’t even think for a second this year’s Masters golf tournament, which has become anticipated for all the wrong reasons, comes close to March Madness.

It’s the only event of the year in which people young and old, male or female and even interested and uninterested come together to fill out their game picks in hopes of achieving the unthinkable: the perfect bracket. Even our president filled one out, but after the second-round Cinderellas emerged, it became clear Barack Obama shouldn’t quit his day job.

Admittedly the 2009 national tournament made me stray away from college basketball. With very few upsets and a tournament final between a pair of No. 1 seeds, I lost so much interest that I didn’t even fill out a bracket this year. I now regret that.

I regret not being one of the more than 4.5 million who submitted a bracket through ESPN’s Tournament Challenge, of which not a single person had a perfect submission. Most of all I regret thinking this year’s tournament would be a repeat of last year’s, because if anything is predictable in college sports, it’s that they are unpredictable.

Honestly, who would have predicted that Ivy League Cornell would blaze its way to the Sweet 16? Who is Ali Farokhmanesh? Before the tournament very few knew, but on March 20 he lead the Northern Iowa Panthers to a bracket busting win over tournament favorite Kansas.

That’s what makes March Madness the best two-and-a-half weeks of the year. No names are suddenly heroes, tiny schools become huge and what happened from the start of the regular season in November until the beginning of March virtually means nothing. Anything can happen, and this year A LOT happened.

What became the biggest story by April involved a team from a school with an enrollment under 4,000, lead by a 33-year-old head coach and the weight carried the weight of America’s underdog role on its shoulders.

The Butler Bulldogs from Indianapolis were a half court buzzer beater away from taking down colossal Duke in front of 70,000 hometown fans. But Gordon Hayward’s shot didn’t fall, Duke went home with a fourth national title and the Bulldogs wait until 2011 Madness begins for another shot at the improbable.

So, sorry your bracket probably imploded by the Sweet 16, but your tribulation became Cornell, Northern Iowa and Butler’s fortune and resurrected the excitement of college basketball.

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