It has developed into a cultural phenomenon in the United States. Starting in November, teams from all around the country begin their journey toward being atop the ladder in April, cutting down the nets and hoisting the championship trophy.
For some teams, it is as simple as winning their conference tournament and getting an at-large bid. For others, they sit and wait on the "bubble," hoping the selection committee views their "resume" as viable enough to be put into the field of 68. The expansion of teams, in its first year from 64 to 68, allows the entry of four more teams, but the unfortunate part of being that 69th team will always be debated each year.
Now that play-in games have been played and the second round of games have been completed, here's a list of 10 things that I've learned from Round 2 (some of which I wish I had known before I filled out my bracket).
Was anything more frustrating than knowing that your favorite team was playing and you couldn't watch them because they weren't covered in your area, so you had to watch the top line for scores? For years, people have been deprived of the game they had been waiting to see, only to be left two inches from the television screen because those scores are so darn small (unless you've got a 50" flatscreen).
In 2011, in addition to the coverage that CBS provides, games will also be covered and televised on three other stations, TBS, TNT and TruTV. It is an interesting combination of networks, but hey, with all those games in the first couple rounds, you can't complain. Being able to switch potentially between four games at the same time is quite appreciated. So if there's a game on that you'd prefer not to watch, simply look up one of the other stations for a different game, and you'll be sure to find something you like.
Expanding the brackets has seemed like a good idea, but expanding the coverage and the stations you can watch games on, now that's a winner.
Just because you play in a conference that has a superior reputation, the likes of the Big East, ACC, Big 12, SEC, Pac-10 or Big Ten, that reputation alone will not get you a win. You had better show up to the game.
Just ask Louisville (Big East), Vanderbilt (SEC), St. John's (Big East) and Georgetown (Big East).
Mid-majors don't care where you come from. They all play with the same round ball and try to get it into the same hoop.
Gotta love those Cinderella stories!
He doesn't get too much national coverage. Sure, you can see some highlights on ESPN SportsCenter, but he doesn't get that exposure on the national stage by playing on a Wednesday night or a Sunday afternoon. It's hard to appreciate his talent when you're only hearing about it.
But after seeing him play a whole game, the Jimmer Show is for real.
Even without Davies, he can carry BYU to a Final Four. Like I said, this kid is for real!
The saying goes, "its not the size of the dog in the fight, its the size of the fight in the dog."
Isn't it appropriate that it's the Butler Bulldogs. They're a scrappy bunch, not the most talented or the most athletic, but they have one very important thing that counts for quite a lot during this time of year. Heart.
Butler has heart—and a lot of it.
And so does George Mason.
That's right Utah State. You did it. You had me thinking I was making a slick pick when I took you over Kansas State. And then you decided to make a fool out of me.
You can't believe in everything you hear from analysts. Bracketologists are simply experts, but they aren't God. So when they tell you that Utah State is primed for a run, they have the experience and the talent to match up with the top teams. This is their year to make a run! Sometimes they're right, and sometimes they're not.
This time, they were not.
There are just a handful of teams that are going to be very tough to eliminate. They defend. They rebound. They score in many different ways. They have talent. They have coaching, good coaching.
Duke, Texas, Ohio State, Notre Dame and Pitt all qualify as tough outs. Kansas, Purdue, Kentucky and UNC are close, but they're a little easier to beat if you get them out of their rhythm.
But it's March, and it's Madness, so anything can happen.
These games are all about the runs. It is just a part of the game. Its going to happen whether you like or not. Don't worry, because your team will make their runs too. Count on it. (Unless you're a Tennessee fan, sorry).
For example, UNC and LIU. UNC starts out 12-2. LIU responds with a 19-9 run, followed by UNC's 20-6 response.
So while it becomes a game of runs between both teams, whichever team remains focused, confident, composed and patient will usually come out on top. But not always.
There are plenty of contrasting styles of play in the tournament. UNC likes to run and get out on the break. Wisconsin likes to slow the game down. Duke loves to shoot the threes. Notre Dame likes to go inside-out.
You've got to take advantage of your opponents' weaknesses as often as you can. For example, UNC's frontcourt have major height advantages over LIU's smaller forwards. Hence, Tyler Zeller with 32 points and 9 boards, Henson with 28 points and 11 boards and Harrison Barnes finishing with 24 points and 16 boards. That's 84 of the team's 102 points. By the way, LIU had 87 points as an entire team.
UNC was smart to dump the ball into Zeller, Henson and Barnes and make use of their height. Coaches know how to diagnose those weaknesses, and that's how you can get yourself to a Final Four.
If you've got a game on mute and Gus Johnson is calling it, you are doing yourself a HUGE disservice. Johnson knows how to call a game. He gets into it. He makes you get into it. It could be the most boring game you've ever watched, but he has a way of keeping you on the edge of your seat.
He joins Bill Raftery as a familiar voice of college basketball. ONNNNNIONS!!
Don't make the mistake of trusting a coach to bring his struggling program back into the spotlight just because it is tournament time.
Michigan State, Tennessee and Villanova all faced rough regular seasons as they slumped into March and made their way to the tournament. All with top head coaches leading the way (well, Bruce Pearl, eh), one would expect their teams to step up with a national title on the line. Negative.
I took Sparty to the Elite Eight, banking that they would wake up and put it together for a deep run. I get repaid by watching them go down by 23 in the second half to UCLA before making a ferocious run and only lose by two.
Tennessee had the talent, but not the heart. Or the will, or the defense. They quit. Its tough when you face distractions all season because your coach is a knucklehead, but for your own reputation as a player, to lose by 30. Wow.
Villanova had it. They had the win in line. They let George Mason back in and eventually lost it. Just wasn't their year.