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NCAA Tournament: The Heart of The Collegiate Athlete

By Matthew Aveni

With March coming and going, the sporting world had much to love. Tiger Woods won yet another tournament, making his critics and fans wonder if he is back to being the Tiger of old. Major League Baseball is in full swing with spring training coming to an end and also the Miami Heat winning 27 straight games behind MVP LeBron James.  The best thing about the month of March is the NCAA Men’s basketball tournament.

The NCAA tournament is one of the most exciting months of sports. Sixty-four teams enter all with the same hope: to be the college basketball national champion.  College basketball is exciting because teams play for more than just a contract or incentives so they can be paid more, they play for the love of the game.

This season is different than most seasons.  Last year Kentucky was the outright favorite playing like juggernaut’s and the season before UCONN was on an unbelievable run where no team in the nation could stop them.  No team this year can compare to UCONN or Kentucky.  Gonzaga, Louisville, Duke, Indiana, Miami, Kansas and many others could have been the favorite to win and it would not have surprised too many people if they were knocked out in the early rounds of the tournament.

The upsets in the season’s tournament were very surprising.  New Mexico, Georgetown and Wisconsin were all knocked out in the first round; some experts had them making it to the Final Four and others had them winning it all.  That changed very quickly when on the first day of games they were sent packing back to their universities.

The reason many fans watch is to experience the run of many of the Cinderella teams that had no reason of being in the tournament, let alone winning games and making it to the Sweet Sixteen.  How many people filled out their bracket and thought that Florida Golf Coast University would beat Georgetown and play Florida in the Sweet Sixteen? Even better is the Wichita State Shockers are going to the Final Four in Atlanta to play Louisville.  Wichita State battled through Pittsburgh, Gonzaga, La Salle and Ohio State to make it there.  The most interesting thing about this Shocker team is that they lost their top five leading scorers from a year ago.

The upsets and Cinderella teams make the NCAA tournament so interesting.  Everyone has a general favorite for professional baseball, basketball and football but college basketball is the biggest tournament of all sports.  The college student-athlete is also a very intriguing topic.  So many of these players do not go and play in the NBA.  There are only two rounds in the draft and usually players drafted in the second round do not last in the NBA very long. That being said many college basketball players play for their school and their pride.  Many of their last games played in college come losing in the NCAA tournament and fall into tears knowing it just might be the last time they pick up a ball and play competitive basketball.

Now that the Final Four is just a week away, the hype and hopes of three teams will come to an end.  Louisville will be playing Wichita State and Michigan will be facing off against Syracuse.  In the final year of the “Big East” being together two teams have the opportunity to play against each other and send the Big East off with winning two of the last three National Championships.  With no team asserting themselves as the outright favorite the country’s biggest tournament can be sent off with some of the best games many of us will see all year.