NCAA Tournament Kicks Off with Tribute to St. Louis Legend Rick Majerus

Matt FitzgeraldCorrespondent IIIMarch 21, 2013

The Saint Louis Billikens are no doubt playing with heavy hearts in the 2013 NCAA tournament, as they have all season. It is the highlight of a rising program that's been built to new heights by the late, great head coach Rick Majerus.

On Thursday, a tribute video to Majerus kicked off March Madness. Majerus, who was the longtime coach of the Utah Utes before taking the Saint Louis job in 2007, passed away due to heart failure on Dec. 1 at the age of 64.

The impact that Majerus had on many of the current players for Saint Louis' tough squad is obvious in the video above. Common thoughts about Majerus are how wonderful of a human being he was and how deeply he cared about his players.

In the opening, a clip from March of 2012 shows a choked up Majerus discussing his attachment to the young men who were a part of his program.

As Majerus' successor Jim Crews alludes to in the video, Majerus used to write on the whiteboard before games that the Billikens needed to simply rebound and defend effectively to win. The fact that senior forward Cody Ellis continued that tradition even after Majerus no longer coached the team shows how effectively Majerus reached his players.

It took until Majerus' fifth season for his philosophy to totally click at Saint Louis, and when it did, the Billikens advanced to Round 3 in last year's NCAA tournament. Unfortunately, the coach had to take a leave of absence following the 2011-12 season.

The highlight of Majerus' tenure at Utah and the deepest he went in March Madness was a trip to the national championship game in 1998.

Saint Louis, the No. 4 seed in the Midwest region, beat New Mexico State on Thursday to advance to the Round of 32 where it will take on either Oregon or Oklahoma State.