College Basketball: How Tampa Made Me a Fan (part 1)

aSenior Analyst IMarch 26, 2008

Last Friday, I was hit with Cupid's arrow and I fell in love.

I can't get enough of college basketball.

My new love isn't because of freshmen sensations such as Michael Beasley, Derrick Rose or Kevin Love.

It's not from watching college basketball's top teams such as North Carolina or Memphis.

It's not because of the experienced stars who are always in the media like Tyler Hansbrough or Roy Hibbert.

While these things didn't hurt, they aren't the reasons I became addicted.

I fell in love with college basketball because of the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, San Diego Toreros, Sienna Saints, and Villanova Wildcats.

Before I go any further, let me explain some things.

I've always been one of those people who couldn't stand college basketball for several reasons.

For one, I didn't know any of the players because they were always changing. Also, I didn't have a favorite team because the closest school to me (South Florida) is terrible. Finally, it didn't seem as competitive because the same teams, your Dukes and Connecticuts, would dominate every single year.

Until this year, I had never watched much college basketball, even during March Madness.

I'd usually fill out a bracket but I'd only do it because all of my friends were and it was fun beating them because they knew too much and would overthink their picks.

Which brings me to earlier this year when my dad asked me if I wanted to attend the first round of the Big Dance in Tampa.

Even though I wasn't a fan of the college game, I was still a diehard basketball fan and I wouldn't pass up an opportunity to catch a few games.

He bought the tickets and knowing I would be seeing four games in March, I started reading college basketball articles and watching an occasional game or two.

By the time Selection Sunday rolled around, I knew what I wanted.

I was hoping to see a top seed (preferably Memphis) and I wanted to see some players I actually knew like Eric Gordon or OJ Mayo so it wasn't too boring.

When the games for our region were announced, my jaw dropped.

We would be seeing 5th seeded Drake vs. 12th seeded Westen Kentucky, 4th seeded Connecticut vs. 13th seeded San Diego, 4th seeded Vanderbilt vs. 13th seeded Siena, and 5th seeded Clemson vs. 12th seeded Villanova.

Honestly, I was disappointed. I only knew two players from reading articles in Sports Illustrated (Adam Emmenecker and Hasheem Thabeet) out of eight teams.

Despite my disappointment, I arrived at the St. Pete Times Forum with a positive attitude. We made our way into the arena a little before noon.

I bought a program so I could know a little bit about each of the teams I would be watching for the next ten hours. We went to our seats and got comfortable. It was going to be a very long day.