March Madness Is Back And Madder Than Ever

Growing up with older cousins and a whole side of the family that went to Penn State University, I hadn’t originally understood the fixation and fascination people have with college sports. Thanksgiving dinners were spent talking about and watching the game, and for a long time I had decided I didn’t really enjoy college sports all that much. However—down the road—I’m in the midst of my college decisions, and it’s safe to say that my opinions on the “ra-ra-ra” nature have changed quite dramatically. Although the football season—the big one—has passed, there is still a sport, an even more exciting one might I add, that is still happening. The college basketball season is alive and well, and now, things are more tense and competitive than ever. 

Generally, March Madness is a NCAA tournament—for both men and women’s basketball—that occurs at (you guessed it) the end of March. It takes 64 D1 teams to start off with, using benchmarks to determine the legitimacy of their placement in the tournament. They then pair off, playing each other to get down to 32, and then the “sweet 16” and so forth. If a team makes it to the “elite eight,” “final four,” or the championship, the publicity is amazing and they can even be featured in brand commercials, just like South Carolina’s women’s basketball team was seen in a recent Under Armour commercial. Everything is hectic and fast, as the teams continuously play each other to weed out some of the competition before it gets steadfastly competitive. This year, the results were quite surprising. 

Starting with Men’s Basketball, there were some extreme upsets. Perhaps the largest (considering I watched the game myself) was an extremely close match and loss by Purdue in a game against Fairleigh Dickinson. Purdue ranked 5th in the NCAA season and in the AP Poll, having a 15-5 record in the conference. Last year, Purdue was upset by similar circumstances, Saint Peter’s—another small school from New Jersey—beating them out of the tournament. With the excellent season they had and Zach Edey’s incredible record, fans were looking forward to seeing them progress throughout the tournament and were surprised by the huge upset. Another team that lost out was Duke, losing to the Volunteers (Tennessee) in a 65-52 final. Duke has a great reputation in the world of Men’s Basketball, reaching the Final Four in last year’s March Madness tournament. The game started out strong, Duke holding their own against the Vols until they lost it in the second half. The Crimson Tide (Alabama), much like their football team, are projected to follow through the tournament as well. Pressure is high for them to perform as well as their football team did this year. Another additional comment is about UNC, who outperformed themselves in last year’s tournament. Fans have high expectations for them as well. With the Men’s Bracket, predictions seem to have gone haywire, and the nature of unpredictability is more akin to our comfortability than we’d like. 

As for Women’s Basketball, the results seem to make considerably more sense than the Men’s. Iowa’s NCAA Women’s Team is on fire this season, beating out a household name like Georgia with a 74-66 ending result and a whopping 95-43 result against SE Louisiana. There has been a conversation occurring about what’s to happen with UConn, as their star player Paige Bueckers is currently out with a torn ACL. The team seems to be doing fine themselves, making it past the rounds of 64 and 32, and they’re bound to play Ohio State on 3/25. Tennessee’s “Lady Vols” have been making appearances as they too came into the tournament with a bang (94-47 win against Toledo and a 95-50 win against Saint Louis). Villanova is quite known for basketball too, and they’ve been moving along quite nicely. The most surprising thing in the Women’s Bracket was the upset by Miami in the game against Indiana’s Hoosiers. It was super tight knit and back and forth, with the ending result being 70-68. 

March Madness is always an exciting time for basketball fans like myself, and this year’s results have been surprising to say the least. It would have been in the cards to take predictions from last year’s pool of players but—as proven—this tournament seems to be full of the unexpected. My prediction for Men’s is that Alabama—since they’re on a sports roll—will take the cake for this year’s trophy. As for Women’s, I’m still holding onto the hope that Iowa will pull through and perform well. UConn is a possible contender for first place if they keep the track that they’d laid last year. However, considering the vast amount of upsets and shocking results that have come out of this year’s tournament, it’s really fair game. As an avid watcher, I’m excited to say that March Madness is back—and madder than ever!

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