The sporting world's greatest single elimination tournament unveiled its brackets today, which means it's time to lace up the Sunday shoes and practice some moves for the Big Dance. Each team showcases its own Dance "steps", if you will, from UAB's up-tempo harassing cha-cha to Iowa's plodding beat-you-to-submission slow dance to West Virginia's backdoor cutting and 3-point strutting tango. Just as "One Shining Moment" is synonymous with the title game, Wilson Pickett's "Land of 1,000 Dances" may as well be the soundtrack for the first 2 rounds as the nation gladly experiences ADD anxiety trying to keep tabs on multiple games at once.
Reports claim that more than $3 billion in production will be lost at workplaces with extended "lunch breaks" and refreshing of websites ad nauseum. That'd be more of a problem if bosses weren't side-by-side with their employees rooting on their brackets. Water cooler bragging rights are at stake in office pools, where someone invariably wins basing their picks on jersey color or meaner mascot. The ritual of filling out a bracket(s) stands unmatched by any other sporting event as the 63 game slate captivates the nation for 19 days. There's a communal vibe that draws us all together, owing to the vested interest in the outcome of every game.
Storylines run as thick as Rick Majerus' clogged arteries, spotlighting senior leaders, emerging stars, deserving coaches and unheralded schools. Auditions begin Thursday for the lead role of Cinderella in this year's dramatic exposition. Fanbases making their first trip to the tournament will be as excited as Dickie V. courtside at Cameron Indoor. And there's no greater joy than witnessing the elation of Small School U. realizing its dreams with an upset victory.
Miracle endings etch their place in tourney folklore with relative unknowns becoming household names come tournament time. Who will become the next Bryce Drew or Lorenzo Charles is anybody's guess. Mid-majors, rightly or wrongly, snared more bids than ever, a subplot with long-term ramifications if the middies can back up their selections. Nearly all of the top teams had weaknesses exposed down the stretch with clear cut favorites lagging close to the pack - a parity proponent's dream.
Cue the 6:41 pm tip-offs and get on with the show. Anything is possible from now until April 3rd, when the smooth sound of Luther Vandross "The ball is tipped..." anoints a new champion, signaling the end of another maddening march to the Final Four.
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