NCAA Basketball Tournament: 68 Things We Love About March Madness
College basketball’s national championship tournament is the most exciting event in collegiate competition. Its fan base and following are unmatched, and the buildup to and through the tournament are unlike anything in athletics.
And at this time of year, basketball fans are envisioning the NCAA tournament's past, full of memories of buzzer-beaters, break-aways and the bracket busters.
The following is a list of 68 reasons why our culture craves March Madness.
It's complete with stats, facts, players, teams, ideas and a lot of general information about the NCAA tournament, making this your one-stop resource for all you would ever need (or maybe even want) to know about it.
A lot has changed just since last year’s tournament, so to make sure you have all the information, make sure you read through to the end, not to mention the argument ammunition that you’ll have over your idiot friends and know-it-all co-workers messin’ up your office pool.
Unfortunately, the only bad thing about the Big Dance is that it’s only once a year, in March. At least this year the tournament format is a little bit larger than before.
We, as fans, will not complain about that.
68. The Tradition
Although it’s hard to imagine what life was like before computers or even cell phones, picturing a world without the NCAA Men's Basketball Division-I Championship is unimaginable.
The madness began in 1939 with just eight teams and it has seen 35 total different champions since the brackets began.
John Wooden, who won a pre-tournament national championship in 1932 as a guard for Purdue, led UCLA to 10 of its record 11 national titles.
The Bruins have combined with Kentucky (7), Indiana (5), North Carolina (5) and Duke (4) to win 32, or nearly half, of the 67 NCAA tournaments.
In today’s current format, with an expanded field of 68 for the first time, which will be discussed in a following slide, 31 teams will be in attendance as a result of winning their respective conference tournaments or outright regular-season titles.
The other 37 will be at-large picks from the NCAA selection committee, which always provides some spirited, yet necessary, debate.
67. Seed Swelling
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The modern-day traditional field of 64 was expanded by one in 2001 when the "play-in" game was created. And although it was a game “before” the tournament, it counted as a field of 65.
Now, for the first time, each tournament region will feature a play-in game, expanding the total field to 68 (60 more than the eight teams selected when the tournament began in ’39). The teams will feature the last four automatic qualifiers and the last four at at-large selections.
So now it’s as though we have an opening round before the, well, opening round. I see no flaws with this system, but it hasn’t actually happened yet. No doubt it will, at minimum, expand the excitement of the entrance to the Big Dance.
Just be prepared for the confusion.
It’s believed that the First Four round will also be known as the first or opening round. The next round, which we’ve come to know as the first round, will now be known as the second round, although this will still feel every bit like the traditional opening round of 16 games on Thursday with 16 more on Friday.
66. Slippers for Sleepers
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For a few weeks in the early spring, the “Cinderella” term gets mentioned more often than all the other weeks of the year combined.
Aside from where your personal allegiances may lie with respect to rooting for your home team, everyone loves a nice underdog story. As long as the “Cinderella” story doesn’t interfere with your school and doesn’t burn your entire bracket, then you likely cheer on the small guy.
With that, who’s the next Butler, Davidson, Princeton, George Mason, etc.?
65. A Chance to Dance
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The lead-in to the tournament is just as exciting as the first two rounds of the tournament itself. It adds an extra week to the front end of the Big Dance, with teams scrambling and rallying to win conference tournaments to validate their tournament parking passes.
A majority of smaller schools, even those with great records that feature 20-plus wins, will be left out unless they win their conference crowns or tournaments.
And although this may seem somewhat unfair in selected situations, it’s a fact of life that these teams understand as a fundamental basketball truth. Therefore, they know the stakes and understand the importance of the multi-round conference tournaments.
And those conferences that have postseason tourneys also know that even a double-digit-loss team, or a sub-.500 team, has a chance. They know they have to advance to dance, which makes for some great basketball.
64. Bracket Busters
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We all have that annoying bracket buddy who picks a borderline ridiculous (fine line between genius and ridiculous) Final Four team that gets bounced in the first round, subsequently ruining an entire region, if not side, of his or her entire bracket.
Is it wrong to find such unbridled amusement at the hands of another’s misery?
No. In fact the sight of one of your co-workers cursing out, spitting on, or crumbling up his or her bracket on the first weekend of the tournament is something that I live for seeing and work tirelessly to avoid personally.
Besides, we’ve all been burned one time or another.
63. Close, but Not Quite Cinderella
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It’s a daunting record: 104-0.
That’s the No.1-seed's collective record in the opening round of the NCAA tournament since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985. Although a No.16 seed has never defeated one of the tournament’s top seeds, a small handful of teams have gotten close.
In 1989, two No.16 seeds came within a bucket of pulling off the ultimate of all upsets, when Princeton’s loss to Georgetown and East Tennessee State’s fail against Oklahoma were both decided by just one point (oddly, the only two times the No. 1 versus No.16 game was that close was in the same year).
Three other times, the No. 16 got within five points and 10 more contests have been within 10 points. There has been only one overtime contest since the field expanded to 64 teams, when No.1-seed Michigan needed an extra session to take care of No.16-seed Murray State in 1990.
62. Network Justice
With the addition of the Turner Sports trio of networks (TBS, TNT and truTV) to the already signed on CBS Sports’ coverage of March Madness, the viewing package just got better.
No longer a hostage to the in-studio producer’s idea of which game should be showcased at which time, now, for the first time in the history of the tournament, every game will appear on one of the four networks, so the annoying bounce back-and-forth will go bye-bye.
The contract signed to make this magic is in place as of this year and runs through 2024.
And perhaps with the addition of truTV, formerly known as CourtTV, maybe there will be fewer robberies to report on the court.
61. Fill It and Forget It
The office pools and bracket debates are as much a part of the tournament as the playing of the actual games.
For a few weeks in March, Joey Average Fan gets to be as much a prognosticator as those who are paid very well for their expert insight. Sorry Rick Neuheisel... Please skip this slide and go on to the next one. It's for your own good.
And every year, it’s a possibility that as you stew over your bracket for a week after the seeds are announced, someone in the cubicle adjacent to yours is going to trump your tourney picks by picking cooler mascots or fancier uniforms.
But even as two of your regions are burned by the time the Sweet 16 rolls around, as long as you still have a pick or two alive to reach the title game, or even the Final Four, you still feel like you have a chance.
Just be careful. Over-analyzing and second-guessing are sure ways to bet you won’t beat that co-worker who thinks Carolina Blue is just pretty and the Blue Devil looks mean.
60. Big East Baloney
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Aside from 1985, when Georgetown, Villanova and St. John’s comprised three-fourths of the Final Four, the lofty Big East expectations for dominating the Big Dance are left unfulfilled.
Joe Lunardi's, Andy Katz's and ESPN in general’s love affair with the often-overrated Big East Conference is a guaranteed pick around tournament time. Year after year after year, we are subjected to a season-long East Coast Kool-Aid Party spearheaded by national media monsters on the East Coast. And March after March after March we see a dozen Big East teams earn invitations to the tournament, many of which receive very likable seeds. But round after round after round, we see said Big East-seeded schools fall short of their projections.
Granted, I understand the aforementioned aren’t solely responsible for the seeding by the NCAA selection committee, but the year-long exposure and favorability in the large East Coast markets certainly play a factor in the national perception leading up to the event.
In 2009, a ridiculous three Big East teams earned No.1 seeds for the tournament. In the end, however, it was the ACC’s North Carolina defeating the Big Ten’s Michigan State for the national championship.
In the last 11 national championship contests (2000-2010), only two of the 22 participants have been from the Big East Conference, with Syracuse (2003) and UConn (2004) winning the titles the years they represented their conference.
Going back even further, in the 25 years that the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, there have only been nine Big East representatives out of 52 participants in the final game, with just five of them winning national championships.
59. More Marv
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With the combination of Turner-owned networks to assist in the coverage of this year’s tournament, there are going to be some characters calling games, including guys like the entertaining TNT trio of Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith.
But if you’re in the group that can’t handle those three and their never-ending back-and-forth, well, the good news is that we’re also going to be blessed with the velvety voice of Marv Albert as a play-by-play guy for the games.
58. Rip Roarin’
Joining the Bryce Drew buzzer beater, making 1998 the year of the last-second shot, UConn’s Rip Hamilton provided some drama of his own in the Elite Eight matchup with No.11-seed Washington.
Although just around 15 seconds, it seemed like an eternity, and even though there were only three put-back attempts, it felt as if there were a dozen shots.
But in actuality, it was UConn forward Rip Hamilton who put back the third attempt at a game-winner to stop the upset-minded Huskies of Washington 75-74 as time expired.
UConn would fall to No.1-seed North Carolina in the Elite Eight.
57: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Bruin
In true David-takes-down-Goliath fashion, No. 13 Princeton of the Ivy League took out No. 4 seed and defending national-champion UCLA 43-41.
But it wasn’t necessarily the outcome or the manner with which the Tigers won that is stuck in my memory. It’s the image of an obviously-shocked Princeton coach Pete Carril celebrating with his team following the upset.
Carril had such a lovable-uncle manner about him as he roamed the sidelines with his comb-over askew and sloppily over-sized sweater and glasses. I'm quite certain he smelled of Old Spice and mustard sardines.
But he appeared to be every bit as thrilled as his players, which he should have been considering he was coaching in his second-to-last game before retiring.
56: Hoyas by a Hair
In the second round of the NCAA tournament, No. 14-seed Weber State was already playing basketball on borrowed time.
Following its opening round upset of No. 3-seed Michigan State, the Wildcats held tough with No. 6 Georgetown and found themselves in a position to pull another upset and advance to the Sweet 16.
But that’s when, with 7.4 seconds left and the game tied at 51, Hoya guard Allen Iverson drove the length of the court following a missed Wildcat free throw. And although the future NBA star lofted a 25-foot air ball, teammate Don Reid was there to tip in the game-winning put back as time expired.
Lost in the chaos was that Weber State star Rueben Nembhard had a one-and-one opportunity at the free throw line just before this play went down. Had he sunk the first, well, things would have likely ended differently for the heavily-favored Hoyas.
In the above video highlight from that game, the obvious dejection on the face and in the body language, of Wildcat coach Ron Abegglen as he leaves the court is an epic reaction. It’s part disbelief and part accusatory, as if someone just stole his newspaper or kicked his dog.
55: Vegas, Baby
Of the nearly $3 billion bet by Americans on March Madness, it’s estimated that only around $100 million of that will be done through legal sports books.
The majority of that legal action is taking place in Vegas.
Bets range from the obvious who will advance each round—Sweet 16, Elite Eight, Final Four, national champions—as well as lesser-known side, or prop, bets.
Some of the items you can lay some clams down on if you have the coconuts are which of the No. 1 seeds will lose first, which of them will make it to the Final Four, which will win it all, over-under for No. 1 seeds wins, over-under for number of wins by specific conferences and many, many more.
And if you don’t have any plans on watching at least the first two days of the first round, I suggest visiting Vegas yourself.
The basketball utopia is in one of the many sports books that lets you drink for free as long as you’re betting on a game or 16.
54: March Money Madness
The NCAA lives for March Madness...literally.
The annual championship tournament provides approximately 90 percent of the NCAA’s revenue for the entire year.
The cash generated comes primarily from television networks paying the NCAA to broadcast the tournament in its entirety. The networks then, in turn, generate millions of dollars by selling advertising. A small portion of the NCAA revenue is also generated by ticket sales, though it pales in comparison to the cash kicked in by the networks.
Last April, the NCAA and CBS along with TimeWarner networks (TNT, TBS and truTV) agreed to a new 14-year, $10.8 billion contract to show every game on the four networks from this year through 2024. The rights to broadcast March Madness was a mere $5.2 million in 1979 (and what a bargain considering that championship game between Magic Johnson’s Michigan State team and Larry Bird’s Indiana State squad is the most watched college basketball game to this day). That cash number doubled the following year and increased to just over $6 billion last year.
And the cash generated by the NCAA tournament is funneled generously down to the 68 teams involved in the show.
A team in the tournament earns thousands of dollars for every game they play in, which is a nice additional incentive for advancing deep in the Big Dance.
Last year’s teams earned more than $220,000 per game they played in. If a team won in each round and made it into the championship game, it stood to cash in at more than $1.1 million.
And if you needed a reason to root for your regular-season rivals, all teams pool and share the money earned from the tournament with all other conference teams.
53: Nylon Neckwear
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Basketball’s post-game celebration of cutting down the nets is its version of the Gatorade bath in football.
The tradition is said to have started after coach Everett Case wanted a souvenir to take home as a memento of his N.C. State’s Southern Conference Championship in 1947. The potentially dangerous practice of scaling a wobbly ladder with a pair of sharp scissors stuck and has been in place ever since.
Although it can take a little longer than it needs to, with every player and coach taking a turn to trim the twine, it’s as much a part of tournament tradition as the trophy ceremony.
And it doesn’t bother me in the slightest that it happens nearly every time a team advances to the next round of the tournament.
You just have to love the images of normally-stoic head coaches smiling and laughing with a raggedy portion of the basket bikini hanging around their necks.
52: Unlikely, Not Impossible
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In the 104 first-round games since the 64-team field expansion, four No. 2 seeds have been upset by the second lowest tournament seed, the No. 15.
And although Richmond (1991), Santa Clara (1993), Coppin State (1997) and Hampton (2001) were able to shock the basketball world on the opening days of their respective tournaments, none of them were able to snag a win in the second round and advance to the Sweet 16.
51: Zags Out?
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Doesn’t it seem like Gonzaga has been in the NCAA tournament forever? And don’t they always seem to do some damage?
This year, the Zags are on the bubble and there’s a possibility that, for the first time in 12 years, the Bulldogs will be on the outside looking in. Although they are not nationally ranked, the Zags are 22-9 and will somehow find a way to make it into the tournament.
It would certainly be strange to not see Zags coach Mark Few pacing the sideline in an NCAA tournament. Few has won the West Coast Conference Coach of the Year Award eight times.
50: Over 50 Club
Aside from Notre Dame’s Austin Carr, who owns half of the six instances of a player scoring 50 points or more in an NCAA tournament game and will be mentioned in a later slide, there are three other former Big Dance standouts who hit the half-century mark in scoring.
In the third-place game of the 1965 tournament, Princeton’s Bill Bradley scored 58 points, guiding the Tigers to a dominating 118-82 victory. Bradley’s 177 total points helped him to earn the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player hardware, and the single-game mark of 58 remains the second-highest total all-time (behind Carr’s 61).
The 1958 tourney saw Oscar “Big O” Robertson of Cincinnati score 56 points in a regional third-place game victory over Arkansas. The mark is still the third most in the history of the tournament.
The last to do so was the man they called “The Admiral.” Navy’s seven-foot star, David Robinson dropped 50 points against Michigan in a 1987 first-round contest, but still ended up losing the game.
Robinson’s 22 field goals in that game is tied with Bradley (’65) and Carr (’70) for second most all-time, behind Carr’s 25 also in 1970.
49: Location, Location, Location
As recently as 1988, teams had games on their home courts in the first rounds of the tournament. In the NCAA women’s tournament, this is still the practice, but on the men’s side, the NCAA went away from games on the traditional home court as best they could. Sure, you still might have to play Kansas State in Kansas City, but it won’t be in Manhattan. And although you might draw Duke in Charlotte, at least you won’t be competing in Cameron.
In addition to the fairer system of court neutrality, there’s also the benefit of different places to travel as a fan.
Whether you’re a specific school backer, or just a local back-yarder, here are the locations that you’re going to get to see some outstanding basketball contests this year.
Second and third Rounds (March 17-20): Denver, Tampa, Tucson, DC, Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland and Tulsa.
Southeast Regional (March 24, 26): New Orleans.
West Regional (March 24, 26): Anaheim.
Southwest Regional (March 25, 27): San Antonio.
East Regional (March 25, 27): Newark.
Final Four (April 2) & National Championship Game (April 4): Houston.
48: Cast of Colorful Commentary Characters
Sports fans are a fickle bunch, to put it mildly. And let’s face it, when your favorite team is rolling or your brackets in general are clicking, you actually like tuning in to hear Dickie V, Digger Phelps, Jay Bilas, the two Davis’ (Hubert and Reese), Bobby Knight and that former Oklahoma State shooting guard who always looks exhausted, oh yeah, Doug Gottlieb.
But when things aren't going so sprightly for your squad(s), you think these guys are an annoying army of idiots. Such is the nature of this full-moon machine known as March Madness.
It brings out the weirdos in us and in the media. If you’re one of those who can’t stand ‘em, you can mute or turn the channel, or well, as we mentioned, Dickie V will lose his voice.
47: No "S" in Team
How many of the 28 NCAA Division I college mascots that don't end in "s" can you name?
The pictured Syracuse Orange is just one of them (and still were even before they switched their nickname from "Orangemen"). If you can name at least half of them without cheating or looking it up, then you might be qualified as a college sports expert and thus able to pick a winning basketball bracket.
It makes for a fun drinking game during commercials of the NCAA tournament's first round. Drink while you think...We'll wait.
Once you're done, try to get the home towns of the schools. Now you're an expert. Or drunk. Or both.
46: A Glimpse into the Future
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A lot of times, the stars of the future will unveil themselves on the largest dance floor of the tournament.
It not only provides fans with hope for the future, but it can also give others an idea of certain players they will get to hate for a few more years. The notion of hope is seemingly short-lived, as a large number of standouts who perform well in the tournament seem to bolt for the NBA rather than return to their respective schools for another run at tournament excellence.
And as good as Kentucky’s John Wall, Texas’ Kevin Durant and Memphis’ Derrick Rose were, the ultimate freshman standard, as far as the NCAA tournament is concerned, is measured by the dominance of Carmelo Anthony. The freshman forward led Syracuse to a national title in 2003.
Some of those who analyst Dick Vitale refers to as “Diaper Dandies” in this years tournament class will likely include Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger-Aaron Craft combo, North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes and Duke’s Kyrie Irving just to name a few. These guys already established themselves as stars throughout the season, but what new kids will add their names to this list come tournament time?
45: 16's for 14's
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There have been 16 No. 14 seeds that have pulled off the unlikely upset of the No. 3 seed in the first round of the tournament.
And two No. 14 seeds have advanced to the Sweet 16, with Cleveland State in 1986 and Chattanooga in 1997.
That, however, is as far as a No. 14 has gone in the ultimate upset quest.
44: No "Talents" at Tournament
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Surely no one would say that LeBron James wouldn’t have been a great college basketball star. I’m simply pointing out that he wasn’t.
I have to imagine (hope actually) that it’s a little more boring for James to watch March Madness than it is for most guys.
After The Decision, it became clear that James is most happy and comfortable when he’s the center of attention. And considering he has no affiliation to one of the greatest spectacles in all of sports, it must be difficult for him to take the tournament without being in the spotlight.
It’s simply something that the King can’t brag about. And I’m sure he’s home crying and wiping his tears with hundreds and putting away some caviar in an emotional-eating rampage.
OK, that’s sarcasm, as I’m sure that he doesn’t care that much. And I should mention that I’m not one of those who believed college would have been good for James. It would have been pointless, as he was physically ready for the NBA before his high school prom.
But the Big Dance dwarfs the NBA Anything in terms of popularity, and that’s just something that the guy with almost everything doesn’t have.
43: School Spirit
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OK, yes, cheerleaders are nice. Some more than others. And although the baseline eye candy keeps us sufficiently entertained and sometimes distracted, there’s more to the tournament scene than just pom-poms, short skirts and dish-towel-sized halter tops.
University bands, coupled with insane student sections and mascot antics are all what makes tournament venues so electric.
It’s an atmosphere that you just can’t get in any professional sport.
And, oh yeah, there are also cheerleaders from 68 schools. That’s a lot of skirt-shaking school spirit.
42: Lucky 13
There have been 22 instances in which the No. 13 seed has beaten the No. 4 seed since the ’85 tourney expansion.
And although the No. 4 seed leads this overall matchup 82-22, the lower seed in this matchup does it often enough for you to take a deep breath and consider circling this section of your bracket in pencil and giving it some more thought.
But don’t ride the momentum, as the No. 13 is 4-18 in the next round and has never made it as far as the Elite Eight.
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Whether your bracket is intact or not, we all want to see a close national-championship final game.
It’s exciting and it also lets us believe that maybe the two best teams were actually playing each other, as opposed to a hot team on a lucky streak.
There have been six games in which the outcome was decided by one point, two of which were part of the seven different contests in which overtime was needed to decide the outcome.
And although the last overtime final was when Kansas outlasted Memphis in 2008, there hasn’t been a one-point finish since Michigan needed an extra session to beat Seton Hall 80-79 in 1989.
The last embarrassing blowout was in 1990, when UNLV beat Duke by 30 (103-73).
40: Brackets We Can Believe In
It’s now well known that President Barack Obama is big sports fan and his love of March Madness is no exception.
When the commander in chief inked his picks with ESPN’s Andy Katz last year, I remember thinking how great it is to have a president who is passionate about sports. Similar to, yet not hilarious like when President George W. Bush choked on a pretzels while watching football on his oval office couch, it’s a nice feeling to know that in certain situations the leader of the free world is a somewhat normal guy like the rest of us.
Obama’s 2010 NCAA tournament picks didn’t finish as solidly as they started, especially when his pick to win it all, top-seeded Kansas, was upset by No. 9-seed Northern Iowa. He obviously wasn’t alone, as that was a bracket burner for a lot of people, not just the most powerful man on the planet. For the president, however, that was the second Final Four pick he lost in the same day, as No. 2-seed Villanova was upset by No. 10-seed Saint Mary’s.
Prior to that, however, the Prez was on point with his picks.
He followed up his 25-7 first-round record with concluding the second round with all but two of his Sweet 16 picks intact. After that, well, the wheels came off a little bit, but didn’t we all crumble at that point?
But that’s why the president filling out a bracket is a good thing.
In his heart, when he’s not keeping the peace, he’s just one of the guys.
And for all the people who are upset and grumble that there are more important things for the nation’s leader to be doing 'than worrying about who’s going to be the No. 12 seed that beats a No. 5 this year, well, relax. Now take a deep breath and take the same 10 minutes that it took Obama to fill out his bracket to complete yours. You’ll see it’s a small amount of time to make sports fans smile.
39: A Dozen Will Do
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There are few certainties when talking tournament time. It’s such a large field with so many possibilities, that it’s nearly impossible to be pure with your predictions.
But this much we know… The No. 12 seed will beat the fifth seed, guaranteed.
The 12 seed is the upset leader. Since 1985, the No. 12 seed has prevailed 35 times, which is more often than the No. 11 seed has beaten the No. 6, and it is beginning to catch up with the No. 10’s upset of the No. 7.
The dirty dozen seed wins 33 percent of the time, or one in three contests. In 2009 alone, three of the four No. 12 seeds pulled off upset victories to advance over the No. 5s.
The furthest a 12 seed has gotten was when Missouri advanced to the Elite Eight in 2002.
38: Nice Knowin' Ya, Kemba
It’s a safe bet that if standout UConn guard Kemba Walker and the Huskies advance deep into the tournament and experience a fair amount of success, Walker will be walking.
The multi-talented junior from the Bronx can make five defenders look foolish all by himself and is averaging just under 23 points per game.
Coming out of the Big East, the Huskies will get a good seed and a stage for Walker to shine, and he will.
And that will provide a much-needed distraction from the NCAA investigations and sanctions of coach Jim Calhoun and the program.
I’m sure the rest of the Big East will throw ya a going-away party Kemba, should you decide to take your talents to the pros.
37: Mobile Student Sections
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Sure, it’s not the same as within the comfort of their own arenas, but when the selection committee does its job correctly and seeds schools somewhat close to home, or within a couple of cases of beer road-trip distance, then we are blessed with the psycho student sections.
We have learned from tournaments past that there are a handful of schools whose student sections will travel and represent their teams as long as they make the tournament.
Duke’s Cameron Crazies,Michigan State’s mobile Izzone as well as fans from Kentucky, North Carolina and Kansas are always around in full-and-bright force, just to mess with your high-def picture.
36: Ham Dunk
At first glance, it seems like a routine rebound and put-back dunk attempt in the 1996 tournament second-round contest.
But Texas Tech’s Darvin Ham had other things in mind as the ball goes in the hoop comes down.
Ham and the No. 3-seeded Red Raiders would go on to win the game easily, 92-73, over No. 6-seed North Carolina to advance to the Sweet 16.
That was the end of the Raiders’ tournament “crashing,” as they would fall to second-seeded Georgetown in the next round.
35: This One Goes to 11
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Of all the aforementioned upsets and lower-seeded-advancements, perhaps two of the more impressive Cinderellas come from the initial-seeding category of No. 11.
Both the 1986 LSU Tigers and the 2006 George Mason Patriots had runs that put them in the Final Four after beginning the tournament as No. 11 seeds.
LSU’s run to the Final Four saw them take down No. 6-seed Purdue, No. 3-seed Memphis State, No. 2-seed Georgia Tech and No. 1-seed Kentucky. The Tigers would fall to eventual national-champion Louisville. It’s worthy to note that LSU’s wins over the Boilermakers and the Tigers in the first two rounds came on their home floor, which prompted venue-change rules just two years later.
George Mason didn’t even win the Colonial Athletic Association championship and had to rely on their 23-win regular season to earn them an at-large bid. Their pick as an at-large was controversial and criticized. After they were able to get wins against No. 6-seed Michigan State, No. 3-seed North Carolina, No. 7-seed Wichita State and an overtime win over No. 1-seed UConn to get them into the Final Four, the selection committee looked like they knew what they were doing.
34: Miracle over Missouri
UCLA won its record 11th national title by taking care of business in the 1995 Big Dance.
But it almost didn’t happen.
Thanks to a last-second miracle by Tyus Edney, the top-seeded Bruins survived a scare by No. 8 seed Missouri in the second round of the tournament, 75-74.
With the underdog Tigers taking the lead with just 4.8 seconds remaining, it looked grim for the Bruins.
But Edney just took care of it himself by driving the length of the court at ridiculous speed and made an off-balance, difficult layup look easy as his teammates and coaches rushed the court in celebration.
This game in particular is the ultimate definition of survive and advance.
33: Yellow Jackets' Stinger
Perhaps lost in the drama of Christian Laettner’s “The Shot,” and maybe slightly forgotten a little by now, No. 7 Georgia Tech’s buzzer beater over No. 2 USC in the second round was also in 1992.
When Yellow Jacket James Forrest caught a near length-of-court pass with 0.8 seconds remaining, all he had time to do was turn around and launch the ball in the general direction of the hoop.
Even the broadcast team seemed a little caught off guard for a moment.
But when the shot fell and the Jackets upset the Trojans by a final of 79-78, pandemonium set in shortly after.
Georgia Tech would be unable to capitalize on that momentum in the next round; however, they fell to No. 6-seed Memphis State.
But not before, at the time of the game, providing the greatest shot of the tournament. Unfortunately for Forrest and the Jackets, “The Shot” was about to take place two rounds later.
32: Jimmer Time
The senior shooter from BYU is averaging over 27 points per game to along with a nearly 42 percent three-point percentage.
The tournament loves big shots from big players and Jimmer Fredette is most definitely that.
In addition to becoming more and more known for just one name, like Prince, Madonna and Sting, Jimmer has scored more than 30 points in five games this season and he has broken the 40-point barrier three times.
As March arrives, Jimmer has his No. 3 Cougars sitting pretty for a great seed with a 27-2 record.
It’ll be in the tournament, however, that Jimmer will likely take over a game en route to leading his Cougars deep into the tournament.
Oh, and his brother T.J. wrote an awesomely-bad rap song about him.
31: Super Selection Sunday
Aside from the potential for controversy stirred up from the subsequent selecting and snubbing of teams for the tournament, Selection Sunday is one day that excites basketball fans throughout the nation as they wait to find out who’s in and who’s out for this year’s March Madness.
The announcement of the entire field on Sunday, which this year will be on March 13, ensures a very low office-production day on the following Monday morning as office pool pros get their brackets squared away.
The program itself is a highly watched-and-rated show, covered in its entirety by CBS and ESPN.
Perhaps this fueled the “hey, look at me” society that now features high school players making dramatic announcements about which college they plan on attending.
Nevertheless, it’s a sure-hit viewing choice, complete with drama and suspense as the live camera feed that shows instant and real-time reaction from schools as they hear the announcement of their seeds for the first time.
30: Selection Scandals
Perhaps “scandal” is a bit of a dramatic stretch, but who doesn’t love a good old-fashioned NCAA selection committee conspiracy-theory conversation?
It certainly hasn’t been free of controversy over the years, and for good reason.
There has always been a shroud of secrecy surrounding the selection committee. It has a very cloak-and-dagger feel about the mysterious process that surely has 10 individuals smoking cigarettes in a dimly lit backroom office in the basement of an Italian restaurant, right? It’s either that or a large dartboard with team mascot pictures attached.
But the actual problem with it is that it’s a very small number of people making such a large determination. Sure there are set guidelines for which to make some decisions, such as RPI, for example. But it’s also very much left up to the experts debating the validity of certain teams.
And the normal number of 34 teams that committee chairman and Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith and minions pick is now at 37, thanks to the overall field expansion to 68 schools.
The nationally-televised selections and subsequent debate that follows is simply something that our scandal-craving society needs. And no matter how the brackets come out on Sunday, March 13, there will be some controversy, which makes me smile.
29: One and Done
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One shot to shine. That’s all you have. No saving face with a best-of-five or best-of-seven series. One game—advance or go home.
The pressure level concerning what’s at stake in this kind of single-elimination tournament is what ensures that you’re going to see the best basketball in nearly every contest.
Sure, if your team makes it to the tournament game and falls short, it would be nice to get the re-do feeling of a series, but it would cheapen the high level of intensity at which all the other games are played.
28: Maryland Miracle
What looked like one of the greatest upsets in the history of the tournament, the No. 6-seed Maryland was a mere 5.0 seconds and 75-73 score away from being upset by No. 11-seed UNC-Wilmington in the 2003 tournament.
That’s when Terrapin Drew Nicholas drove nearly the length of the court and took an off-balance three-point attempt with no time remaining on the clock.
The shot fell and the defending national-champion Terrapins survived by a final of 76-75.
They would go on to upset No. 3-seed Xavier in the next round to advance to the Sweet 16, but would be unable to get past No. 7-seed Michigan State in the Elite Eight.
27: Shamrocks & Shooters
It’s fairly consistent that March Madness falls on or around St. Patrick’s Day, the 17th day of March every year.
Last year, it fell on a Wednesday, just a day before the beginning round (Thursday-Sunday) of the Big Dance.
This year, however, I wish I owned a large Irish sports bar.
Although the First Four, or the four play-in games, will take place on the preceding Tuesday and Wednesday, the actual tournament of 64 get underway on Thursday, which is St. Patrick’s Day. The Big Dance will be known, for a day, as the Big Jig.
There are going to be a lot of brackets stained with green beer while reeking of corn beef and cabbage if anyone wakes (or works for that matter) in time to catch the action on Friday.
I feel hungover just thinking about that.
In case you're wondering, the last time St. Patrick's Day fell on the opening Thursday of the tournament was 2005. That year, Illinois, North Carolina, Michigan State and Louisville made it to the Final Four, with the Tar Heels winning the championship over Illinois in a battle of No. 1 seeds.
26: Keith's Smart Shot
Although the 1987 national championship between Indiana and Syracuse featured the tournament's top two scorers, with IU’s Steve Alford and Rony Seikaly of the Orange each combining to score 138 points apiece en route to the final game, it was Hoosier Keith Smart who would make history.
Following a missed free Orange free throw and with just a little over 28 seconds remaining, Indiana grabbed the rebound and headed up the court with a chance to win the game.
After a few attempts to get the ball to a well-covered Alford and the clock ticking away, Smart got open on the left wing and that’s when he nailed a leaning jump shot with one second remaining and to grab the lead for good, at 74-73.
Smart was subsequently named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.
25: Triple-Doubles: First and Last
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There have been only eight recorded instances of triple-doubles in the history of the NCAA tournament.
The ultimate individual accomplishment on a basketball court, the triple-double refers to the time when a player has double-digits (10 or more) in three separate categories (most commonly scoring, rebounding and assists).
Perhaps the most impressive of the eight, however, are the first time and the last.
The first time it happened in the tourney was when Cincinnati’s Oscar Robertson scored 39 points while grabbing 17 rebounds and dishing out 10 assists in a 98-85 win over Louisville in the third-place game. Robertson’s 39 points are the most in the scoring category for anyone in the Big Dance triple-double club.
Most recently, Kansas’ Cole Aldrich went about his triple-double in 2009 a little bit differently.
In a second-round beatdown of Dayton, Aldrich scored just 13 points, but he pulled down an incredible 20 rebounds while blocking 10 shots. The 20 boards is the most in this particular category.
The only other player to achieve this feat with the blocks category was LSU’s Shaquille O’Neal in 1992 with 11 swats, while also adding 26 points and 13 rebounds.
Michigan State’s Magic Johnson in 1979 was the only one to come in the Final Four or higher. Michigan’s Gary Grant was the only player to record a triple-double in a losing effort, with his Wolverines dropping a 109-79 contest to North Carolina in second round of the 1987 second round.
Utah’s Andre Miller (1998), Marquette’s Dwyane Wade (2003) and David Cain of St. John’s (1993) round out the list.
24: The U.S. Savior
The 1981 NCAA tournament featured the greatest buzzer-beater that you don’t remember.
Inbounding the ball and trailing by two, 73-71, No. 5-seed Arkansas guard Ulysses “U.S.” Reed sank a legitimate half-court shot as time expired to sink the hopes of No. 4 Louisville by a final of 74-73.
This is one of the first times you see footage of fans storming the court in post-game excitement.
The celebration was short-lived, however, as the Razorbacks would fall in the Sweet 16 round to No. 1-seed LSU.
But not before leaving their mark on the ’81 tourney and NCAA tournament history.
23: His Airness Ascends to the Throne
Though basketball fans didn’t realize it at the time, the king of basketball would rise through the NCAA tournament, beginning with one big shot in the 1982 title game.
With just over 15 seconds remaining and No. 1-seed North Carolina trailing fellow top seed and powerhouse Georgetown, Tar Heel guard Michael Jordan drained a jump shot that gave the Heels the game, 63-62, and coach Dean Smith’s first national championship.
And although Carolina teammate James Worthy was the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, Jordan had established himself as a future basketball star.
No one knew at that time, however, just how big he’d get.
22: 8 Vs. 9 Contests
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This is a scary place to be if you're a team with aspirations of advancing. This also feels like one of the toughest games to pick every year.
Perhaps that’s because the No. 8-versus-No. 9 game is always one of the most competitive contests of the opening round.
Of all the opening-round matchups, the No. 9 seed is the only one that features a lower seed owning a higher seed (No. 8). Since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, the No. 9 has a 56-48 record over the No. 8, which gives the lower seed a winning percentage of only 46.15.
One more frightening note about this seeding… Since a No. 16 has never beaten a No. 1 seed, as the winner of the No. 8-versus-No. 9 game, you’re guaranteed to face the No. 1 seed next. In those contests, the No. 1 has an overall record of 91-13.
21: Rice and Shine
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Not only did Michigan win the 1989 NCAA tournament, senior Glen Rice put on a scoring show that few have seen and has yet to be duplicated.
En route to leading his No. 3 Wolverines to victories over No. 14 Xavier, No. 11 South Alabama, No. 2 North Carolina, No. 5 Virginia, as well as wins over No. 1-seed Illinois and an overtime clincher over fellow No. 3-seed Seton Hall in the title game, Rice set an NCAA scoring record that still stands.
Rice shot an incredible 55 percent from three-point land on his way to scoring an amazing 184 points in the tournament (just under 31 points per game average), which easily earned him the Most Outstanding Player award.
Two years earlier, Indiana shooter Steve Alford connected on 7-of-10 of his three-point attempts in leading his Hoosiers to the 1987 national title. But his one game of stellar shooting is a mere sample of what Rice did through six games for the Wolverines. And Alford’s Hoosier teammate, not himself, was named tournament MOP that year.
20: Big Bill's "Onions"
Perhaps one of the most entertaining broadcast duos is that of Verne Lundquist (like Gus Johnson, a quality shouter when needed), and color commentator Bill Raftery.
Although Raftery’s initial famous catch phrase of “Send it in, Jerome” or “Big Fella” is probably more recognizable, who can hold a smirk when he refers to a player’s “onions?”
For many years, I suspect, that a large portion of the viewing community just didn’t catch that he’s been using a euphemism for a man’s genitalia when making a big shot. That, or they’ve never heard it amidst the loud, cheering environment of the typical sports bar.
Either way, Raftery’s use of “onions” makes me cry every time.
19: Double for the Devils?
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With the long regular season and conference tournament schedules in college basketball, coupled with the now 68-team field, your squad could play anywhere between 30-to-40 total games.
That’s a long, grinding season for any sport, especially the athletically-demanding game of basketball.
Because of this and the single-elimination format of the tournament, repeating as the national champion is more difficult than it is in most sports.
The last team to repeat as NCAA champions were the Florida Gators in 2006 and 2007. Prior to that, Krzyzewski’s 1991 and 1992 Duke squads were the last to do so. Prior to that, you have to go back to UCLA’s ridiculous run of seven-straight titles from 1967-73 and nine in 10 years to find a repeat champion. Cincinnati (1961, 1962), San Francisco (1955, 1956) and Oklahoma A&M (1945, 1946) were the other teams since 1939 to have recorded repeat titles.
Although Duke returns a talented team from last year’s national championship squad, getting back on top is not going to be easy for them.
But I learned a long time ago that you never count out a Coach K-coached team (see ’91 and ’92).
18: Dunk You Very Much
Coming into the 1983 tournament, it was widely believed that either overall-No. 1 Houston or national-No. 2 Louisville would end up with the national title at the conclusion.
And although it didn’t happen, thanks to Jim Valvano’s miraculous sixth-seeded N.C. State upset, the Cougars and Cardinals did square off in the Final Four.
Nicknamed “Phi Slamma Jamma,” Houston was the top seed of the tournament and the No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region. The Cougars high-flying offense was led by Clyde “The Glide” Drexler and eventual tournament Most Outstanding Player Hakeem Olajuwon.
And Louisville, a.k.a. “The Doctors of Dunk,” were given a No. 1 seed in the Mideast Region.
The squads had similar paths en route to the national semifinal stage—both having to beat the Nos. 8, 4 and 3 seeds in their respective regions.
After Houston easily took care of No. 8 seed Maryland, No. 4 seed Memphis State and No. 3 seed Villanova, it would meet a Louisville team that disposed of No. 8-seed Tennessee, No. 4-seed Arkansas and No. 3-seed Kentucky, the two powerhouses would meet in the Final Four.
The top-ranked Cougars would take care of the Cardinals in one of the most entertaining games of the tournament, 94-81, before the big upset at the hands of Valvano’s Wolfpack in the finals.
17: Carr Carries the Load
Although Notre Dame was bounced from the 1970 tournament in the second round by Kentucky (other than the third-versus-fourth place game bracket that was standard then), Irish standout Austin Carr did some memorable damage.
In the opening-round contest against Ohio, Carr dropped an NCAA tournament-record 61 points in the 112-82 Fighting Irish victory. In Notre Dame’s following contest, a 109-99 loss to Kentucky, Carr poured in 52 points, which is fourth on the all-time single-game scoring list.
In the 10-point loss to the Wildcats, Carr and Kentucky star Dan Issel, who scored 44 points, set a still-standing record for most points (96) scored by just two opposing players.
The following year, Carr scored 52 points against Texas Christian in the 1971 tourney, giving him, to this day, three of the top five single-game scoring figures.
16: The Sweet Semifinals
Although the ultimate measuring stick is the Final Four or advancing to the NCAA championship, the Sweet 16 is the more realistic benchmark for all 68 teams invited to the tournament.
Aside from the No. 16 seeds, which have never gotten out of the first round, every team in the tournament has a chance to get out of the first round.
If they are able to do that, then winning one more game and advancing to the final round of 16 is a realistic possibility for most involved.
The tournament progresses in a series of goals and making it to the Sweet 16 is the first.
15: Honoring Hank
Although the tragic-and-untimely death of Loyola Marymount star Hank Gathers happened on the court during the 1990 West Coast Conference championship, the run that his teammates began just days later in the NCAA tournament was as inspiring as it is memorable.
Led by friend-and-teammate Bo Kimble, the No. 11-seed Lions honored Gathers by advancing to the Elite Eight with a thrashing of sixth-seeded New Mexico State in the opener, a second-round, 34-point pounding of defending national champion and No. 3-seed Michigan and a two-point Sweet 16 squeaker over No. 7 Alabama.
The emotionally-fueled run ended there, however, at the hands of eventual national-champion UNLV.
Perhaps one of the most memorable on-court dedications in basketball history, Kimble, a right-handed shooter, decided to attempt his first free throw of each tournament contest with his left hand as a tribute to his fallen friend.
In the three tourney contests, Kimble finished 3-for-3 in the dedication free throws.
14: Demonizing Upset
When No. 3-seed Iowa missed a free throw with just a few seconds left and nursing a two-point lead, the Hawkeyes certainly didn’t think they were in too much danger of being bounced from the 2006 NCAA tournament’s opening round.
But strange things happen in the Big Dance and No. 14-seed Northwestern State was well aware of that when they ran down the court and guard Kerwin Forges got a good look at the basket. And after the shot rimmed out and the Demons’ Jermaine Wallace came up with the rebound and threw up a left corner desperation heave that fell, the arena went crazy.
Though Iowa would throw up a last-second shot to answer, it would bounce off and Northwestern State would win the game 64-63.
The Cinderella Demons would fall short to No. 6-seed West Virginia in the next round.
13: "Little Man," Big Shot
It doesn’t get much better than a buzzer beater in the Sweet 16 as time expires.
This happened in 1990, as one of the most famous last-second shots fell when No. 1-seed UConn’s Tate George dropped a turn-around jumper from the right wing to get past No. 5-seed Clemson.
With just one second on the clock and trailing 70-69, UConn threw a length-of-the-court pass to George, who made the amazing, circus-like shot to help the Huskies avoid an upset at the hands of the Tigers.
Although the shot is one of the most famous game-winners in NCAA tournament history, the Huskies ran out of magic, as they were unable to advance past No. 3-seed Duke in the Elite Eight.
12: Not So Shining Moment
Hope springs eternal, they say. Here’s to hoping there will be another upgrade, or elimination altogether, of one of the NCAA tournament’s most tired traditions: the post-championship video montage set to the tune of “One Shining Moment.”
Whether it was original singer and the song’s author, David Barrett, Teddy Pendergrass, Luther Vandross (perhaps the most recognizable version) or the newest addition of Jennifer Hudson last year, it’s still the same depressing “One Shining Moment” that we’ve been subjected to for years, nay, decades now.
Originally composed as a tribute to the Larry Bird-led Indiana State Sycamores of 1979, “One Shining Moment” first closed the television coverage of the NCAA tournament in 1987. It’s been there to wrap up the tourney ever since.
You would think that for something fondly referred to as the Big Dance, that we’d get something with a little more of an upbeat tempo. After all, it’s not called the Big Slow Dance.
If we have to be subjected to a song from 1987, and subsequently make it relevant to the NCAA tournament, then how about George Michael’s “Faith,” Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” Starship’s “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now,” anything from Genesis or, my personal favorite, “Livin’ On A Prayer” by Bon Jovi?
11: Go Crazy, Gus
There’s not a better live-action screamer than CBS Sports play-by-play man Gus Johnson. Yeah, it’s sometimes a bit much when he goes over the top for a routine lay-up or rebound, but putting up with those instances is worth it for the chance to hear Johnson go crazy toward the end of an amazing upset.
His energy combined with a closely-contested finish can give you goose bumps.
If you want to get fired up in advance, head over to the Gus Johnson Soundboard and give a listen… http://www.gusjohnsongetsbuckets.com/
10: Bryce’s Buzzer Beater
With all due respect to Christian Laettner, Valparaiso guard Bryce Drew’s game-winning three-point basket to bury Ole Miss in 1998 was one of the best finishes in the history of the NCAA tournament.
With just 2.5 seconds remaining, No. 13-seed Valpo took an inbounds pass at the opposite end of the court, trailing the No. 4-seed Rebels by two points.
In a swinging fence-style play, Drew caught the deflected length-of-the-court pass on the wing and buried the game-winning three-pointer as time expired.
Valpo would go on to beat No. 12-seed Florida State in the second round before falling against No. 8 URI in the Sweet 16, but an improbable and entertaining run through the tournament nonetheless.
9: Magic and the Bird
The 1979 championship game showdown was the ultimate showcase for a pair of stars. And the fans knew they were witnessing something special, as the contest is still the highest-rated televised contest in college basketball history.
Michigan State, led by guard Earvin “Magic” Johnson, edged a Larry Bird-led Indiana State team, 75-64, and began a career-long rivalry at the next level for the outstanding collegiate duo.
Understandably, there was a lot of hype leading up to this contest.
Top-seed Indiana State came into the tournament with an incredible 29-0 record. And once the 40-team tournament started, the Sycamores showed people why they were undefeated with a 17-point drubbing of No. 8-seed Virginia Tech followed by a 21-point pounding of No. 5-seed Oklahoma. And although their next contest was closer, a 73-71 win over second-seeded Arkansas, it was enough to put them into the Final Four for the first time, where they topped DePaul to get into the finals.
The No. 2-seed Spartans’ road to the Final Four wasn’t unblemished as ISU’s was, coming into the tournament with a 21-6 record and a No. 2 seed in the Mideast Region, but it was just as dominant. Following a first-round bye, MSU recorded a 29-point victory over No. 10-seed Lamar before a 16-point beating of No. 3-seed LSU and a 12-point upset over No. 1-seed Notre Dame. The Spartans dominance continued with a 34-point thrashing of surprising No. 9-seed Pennsylvania to get to the national title contest.
And each team’s star did not disappoint individually either, as each led their respective squad in scoring. And although Johnson’s 24 points bested Bird’s 19, the Sycamore shooter led all players with 13 rebounds.
Johnson was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. Later, in the NBA, Magic’s Lakers and Bird’s Celtics ignited another rivalry that saw the two teams meet in three NBA Finals, with Johnson’s Los Angeles squad coming out on top in two of the three match-ups.
8: Greatest of the Eights
Eighth-seeded Villanova in 1985 provided the greatest upset in the history of the NCAA basketball tournament, if not one of the greatest upsets in the history of championship sports.
Taking place on April Fool’s Day in ’85, the Wildcats handed No. 1 overall-seed Georgetown a 66-64 loss for the most unlikely of national championships.
The Wildcats got there by taking out No. 9 Dayton, No. 1-seed Michigan, No. 5-seed Maryland, No. 2-seed North Carolina and No. 2-seed Memphis State before taking down the Hoyas.
7: Dickie V
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Love or hate him, you cannot dispute the passion that long-time analyst Dick Vitale has for college basketball and the NCAA tournament. In 1979, Vitale called ESPN’s first collegiate-hoops broadcast as a color commentator. He’s been on the sidelines, in the booth or at the studio ever since.
Him losing his voice prior to the tourney is commonplace, and it is usually the result of an array of the phrases “Awesome, Baby!”’, “Dipsy-Doo Dunk-a-Roo”’, “P.T.P-er”’ and “Trifecta”’, among many others.
Whether it’s his sideline spirit with the student section or his child-like enthusiasm in conversations with the players and coaches, Dickie V is as synonymous with the sport as the phrase March Madness.
6: Good to Be on Top?
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There have only been two Final Fours that didn’t include at least one No. 1 seed. The Final Four seedings in 1980 featured No. 2 Louisville, No. 5 Iowa, No. 6 Purdue and No. 8 UCLA. The 2006-version showcased No. 2 UCLA, No. 3 Florida, No. 4 LSU and No. 11 George Mason.
However, this trend isn’t necessarily consistent to favor top seeds.
There has only been one instance in which all four regions' No. 1 seeds made it to the Final Four (2009). And unless you picked every higher seed in order or had a computer do the picking for you, your bracket was as screwed up as mine was. I mean, who picks all four No. 1 seeds?
Additionally, there have only been six title games that featured two No. 1 seeds facing off for the national championship (1982, 1993, 1999, 2005, 2007 and 2008).
5: Active Coaching Legends
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Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski (4), North Carolina’s Roy Williams (2), UConn’s Jim Calhoun (2) and Florida’s Billy Donovan (2) have combined for 10 national titles and are the only four active coaches with multiple national titles.
As we round the corner into March, each of the four will have a shot at adding to their totals as all four are again ranked in the top 25 and positioning themselves for favorable seeds. In the last Associated Press poll of February, Duke was at No. 4, North Carolina at 13, Florida ranked 14th and UConn at the No. 16 spot.
With one more, Krzyzewski would pass former Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp for second all-time with five titles, behind former UCLA coach John Wooden’s 10 titles.
Among the active coaches who have claimed one national championship are Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, Jim Boeheim of Syracuse, Louisville’s Rick Pitino (got his while the head coach at Kentucky in 1996), Bill Self of Kansas, Tubby Smith of Minnesota (won title with Kentucky in 1998) and Maryland’s Gary Williams.
As of March 1, of the one-title club Smith’s Minnesota team (17-11), Izzo’s Spartans (16-12), Williams’ Maryland squad (18-11) are all on the bubble and in danger of missing the tournament, while Boeheim’s Orange (No. 12, AP), Pitino’s Cardinals (11) and Self’s Jayhawks (2) are all locks for the Big Dance and subsequent chances to add to their titles.
Active coaches have taken their squads to a combined 67 Final Fours, led by Krzyzewski’s 11, Roy Williams’ seven and the six Spartan appearances by Izzo-coached teams. Pitino is the only coach in NCAA history who has taken three teams to the Final Four (Louisville, Kentucky and Providence).
Really, there’s Coach K, and the rest of the field.
The question is, however, who are the young up-and-coming coaches who are looking to grab some of those banners for themselves?
4: Glorious Road to the Tournament
Although only a 22-team field, Texas Western’s 1966 tournament championship was more than just a national title. It was a statement about equality and integration for basketball in the South.
One of the most significant moves in NCAA tournament history, Miners coach Don Haskins started five black players for a Texas Western squad that beat Oklahoma City, Cincinnati, Kansas and Utah before taking down an all-white, Adolf Rupp-coached Kentucky team, 72-65.
A few years earlier, in the 1963 championship game, the Loyola-Chicago and Cincinnati squads starting lineups featured seven black players combined.
The ‘66 tourney title for the Miners was also the last game they would play while known as Texas Western. In 1967, the school became the University of Texas-El Paso, or UTEP as it’s more commonly known.
The 1966 story and subsequent Haskins-penned autobiography inspired a 2006 Walt Disney Pictures film, Glory Road, starring Josh Lucas as Haskins.
3: 1st 2 Tourney Days
An excuse to use up some “sick” days or actual vacation time, this is also one of our best reasons to drink beer and eat hot wings before noon.
So if you are one of the smart ones who took the first two days of the tournament off from work, here are a few key times to remember as the tournament begins March 17 and 18.
With the four-network combo coverage between CBS, TNT, TBS and truTV on Days 1 and 2, knowing the tip-off time is crucial, unless you are in a sports bar letting someone else change the channels for you. If not, you might miss a big shot or a Gus Johnson scream.
Each of the four channels will have four different game times and are as follows (all times Eastern):
CBS Contests: Noon, 2:30, 7 and 9:30 p.m.
truTV Matches: 12:30 p.m., 3, 7:15 and 9:55.
TBS Action: 1:30 p.m., 4, 6:45 and 9:45.
TNT Games: 2 p.m., 4:30, 7:15 and 9:45.
2: "The Shot" from Duke's King
If this doesn’t give you goose bumps, you’re either dead or a Kentucky fan.
The greatest shot of Christian Laettner’s career, this one is still the benchmark for buzzer beaters, almost 20 years later.
This fantastic pass-and-shoot from Grant Hill to Laettner was also one of the greatest finishes in the history of the tournament and sent Duke to the Final Four.
1: Jimmy V Is for Victory
Former N.C. State coach Jim Valvano once famously said that you should cry, laugh and think every single day in a speech at the ESPY’s not long before losing his battle with cancer.
On one particular evening in early April in 1983, the man now known simply as Jimmy V did all three after his Wolfpack took down the high-powered Houston Cougars 54-52 for the national championship.
And what makes this buzzer beater better than most others on this, or any other list, is that this was a shot (almost an alley-oop style dunk from Lorenzo Charles as time expired) that was for the NCAA national championship.
The win is now famously marked by Jimmy V’s confusing criss-cross patterned jaunt across the court in celebration.