The start of men’s March Madness
It is only four days into the men’s NCAA basketball tournament and the madness is already on full display.
What is the appeal of this tournament? To some, it’s the bracket culture. Whether selecting based on strategic matchups or the funniest mascots, everybody suddenly becomes a professional “bracketologist” on that second Sunday of March. To others, it's the school spirit and the energy with which these players play — talented athletes that give it their all, knowing this could be the last game of their lives. Every play is tense with college-aged kids diving for loose balls in front of millions, taking advantage of their “one shining moment.” To some, it's about the Cinderella stories, comebacks, and late drama.
The Cinderella stories are in full effect, busting brackets this year like no other. The last of the 20,056,273 men’s tournament brackets were busted in game 25, following the upset of all upsets — 16-seed Fairleigh Dickinson knocked off one-seed Purdue, becoming just the second team in men’s NCAA history to do so. The record-longest-ever perfect bracket was set in 2019, when the last one standing fell in game 50.
Though it may be surprising that it happened this early, it comes as no surprise that all brackets were busted at some point, considering there never has been a perfect bracket, and the weighted odds of achieving a perfect bracket is one in 120 billion. You have a better chance of being struck by lightning twice than you do of making a perfect bracket — so if you do the impossible and achieve a perfect bracket, beware of thunderstorms.
This was also the first time ever that a 15 and 16-seed both advanced past the first round, with 15-seed Princeton shocking 1-seed Arizona to join FDU in the second round. They followed this up by annihilating seven-seed Missouri in a “battle of the tigers” — 78-63. This is the fourth time in tournament history that a 15-seed has made the Sweet 16 and the third consecutive season it has happened. They will look to replicate Saint Peters’ magical run last year to the Elite Eight, when they face off with six-seed Creighton University. Other second round upsets include eight-seed Arkansas knocking off one-seed and reigning champion Kansas in a thrilling game, 72-71. Also shocking fans was seven-seed Michigan State ending two-seed Marquette’s fairytale season, 69-60.
The late drama certainly has not lacked either, with some incredible comebacks and unforgettable moments. The biggest highlight of the tournament so far has to be the collapse of powerhouse Virginia in the second game. Having led by as many as 12, and up by two with 12 seconds left, all they had to do was get fouled and hit their free throws. Virginia’s Kihei Clark did anything but that and inexplicably chucked the ball into the air to avoid a double team, leading to Furman’s Garret Hien intercepting his pass. JP Pegues made him pay, burying a three pointer to win it with two seconds left. That set the tone for the rest of the tournament, which saw a comeback and game-winner from six-seed Texas Christian University and nine-seed Florida Atlantic University, respectively.
The drama, Cinderellas, game-winners, and comebacks are what this tournament is all about. Most of the players are 18-22 year olds experiencing the best moment of their lives, and giving it their all as long as they are on the court. March Madness is always a rollercoaster, and no one can be sure who will go all the way, but we can be sure it will be filled with all the emotions.