Madness will ensue on the road to Houston

Get your bracket ready and clear your schedule. March Madness is finally here. This Sunday, March 13, the Division I men’s basketball committee will finalize the 68-team bracket, and the road to the Final Four in Houston will begin.

The college hoops season thus far has been filled with upsets of top five teams. Does this mean your bracket is destined to get busted by Cinderella’s this March? Only time will tell. But one thing is for sure, this NCAA tournament promises to be a good one. Here are nine reasons why I love March Madness.

Number one: Championship week. Conference tournaments are a chance for many teams to start anew. Thirty-one conference tournament winners will gain automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament. This is a chance for small upstart schools to play their way into the Big Dance. It is also the last opportunity for teams to build their résumés for the selection committee.

Number two: The first two full days. With 16 games on a Thursday and a Friday to open the tournament, these days are complete bliss for college basketball fans. I have heard many stories about employees calling in sick for work on these days. You don’t want to miss that first buzzer-beating upset.

Number three: School pride. The bands, the fight songs, the students; the atmosphere in college hoops is unmatched at the professional level.

Number four: The upsets. Who can forget the image of NC State’s Coach Jim Valvano running around the court after his team shocked Houston for the NCAA title in 1983? Or Ali Farokhmanesh’s dagger three to defeat top-seeded Kansas in 2010? These upsets are the essence of what makes the NCAA Tournament such a great event.

Number five: The buzzer beaters. From BYU’s Danny Ainge driving the length of the court to beat Notre Dame, to Valparaiso’s Bryce Drew unforgettable 3-pointer to crush Ole Miss, to Christian Laettner’s perfect shot that sent Duke to the Final Four over Kentucky, these moments live on in college basketball lore.

Number six: The passion. The NCAA Tournament provides a chance for players to show the results of all their hard work and late nights at the gym. This will be the last opportunity for many seniors to play at such a competitive level. The NCAA Tournament is special because players play with great concentration.

Number seven: The stars. Before Stephen Curry was hitting 38-foot game winners with the Warriors, he led Davidson on an incredible run to the Elite Eight. Before Dwyane Wade became a star in the NBA, he was busy exploding for a triple-double that led Marquette past Kentucky and into the Final Four. This March, look for stars, maybe guys like Denzel Valentine or Buddy Hield, to take over games and lead their teams to victory.

Number eight: The Final Four. Sixty-eight teams will enter the tournament, but only four will descend upon Houston in early April. Last year in Indianapolis, I attended some of the Final Four festivities, including open practices and an Imagine Dragons concert. The best part of Final Four weekend is, of course, the games. Four teams, three games, one champion. It does not get much better than that.

Number nine: One Shining Moment. A tradition that dates back to the 1987 championship game, this song is played as the winning team’s players cut down the nets to a montage of highlights from the tournament. This is a great time to reflect on the madness witnessed during the previous three weeks.

Selection Sunday is only five days away. Let the madness begin.

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