Prelude To The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament

Let the madness begin.

No disrespect to New Orleans, Wake Forest, North Carolina Central, and Providence but the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament officially begins Thursday with a slate of 16 games.

The best three weeks on the sports calendar is upon us.

The belles of the ball will be in attendance (Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, Kansas) as well as teams putting on their Big Dance shoes for the very first time (Jacksonville State, Northern Kentucky, Northwestern, UC Davis).

Villanova will attempt to be the first defending national champion to repeat since Billy Donovan coached a Florida squad featuring Joakim Noah and Al Horford to back-to-back titles in ’06 and ’07.

Carolina, last year’s runner up, will attempt to repeat history of their own. They lost the 1981 title game to Bob Knight’s Indiana Hoosiers only to come back and win it all the next season, in part, because of a clutch shot from a certain guard who wore No. 23.

The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament draws interest from casual fans like no other sporting event, including the Super Bowl. Millions of brackets have been filled out across the country for monetary gain or simple bragging rights. Eyes will be glued to the tournament beginning today, culminating with the crowning of a national champion at University of Phoenix Stadium on Apr. 3.

Every player on every team genuinely believes they have what it takes to win a national championship. Truth be told, there are six (possibly eight) teams with the talent, coaching, and willpower it takes to win it all. However, this doesn’t mean that a few gatecrashers won’t show up to disrupt the natural order of the college basketball universe.

Who can forget 12th seeded George Mason’s run in 2006? All they did was knock off Michigan State, the defending champion Tar Heels, and Connecticut en route to a Final Four berth. How about Bryce Drew’s buzzer beater to lift Valparaiso over Ole Miss in 1998 or VCU’s Final Four run in 2011?

Seeding and the business of collegiate athletics doesn’t matter once the ball is tipped. History will be made over the next three weeks regardless of who winds up as the last team standing. We will see the elation that comes with cutting down the nets and the emotion that comes with defeat. Either way, the best three weeks on the sports calendar is upon us.

Let the madness begin.

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