Saturday, March 15, 2008

I Love College Hoops

Man, I love college basketball.

I just finished watching the tail end of the North Carolina-Va. Tech semifinal game in the ACC tournament. The teams were tied in the closing seconds when UNC guard Ty Lawson's wayward running layup somehow was batted to Tyler Hansbrough, and he nailed a baseline jumper with less than a second to play. That buzzer beater comes after yesterday's amazing, incredible, stupendous play by Minnesota to defeat Indiana in the Big Ten tournament. In that game, Minnesota trailed by a point with, I think, 1.8 seconds to play and was inbounding the ball from its own baseline. The inbounds pass, thrown like a quarterback, sailed three-quarters the length of the court, was snagged by a Gopher, who hoisted it, shotput style, toward the basket. Good. End of ballgame. Wow!

And these conference tournaments are just the prelude to the NCAA Tournament, which takes this great game to another level. It's nirvana, shangri-la and heaven all rolled into one. It's Christmas in March. Some would argue it's much, much better than the real Christmas. I have no comment on that. Don't want to offend the Good One upstairs.

Anyway, there are many reasons that the NCAA Tournament is so captivating. The best teams in the field pitted in a winner-take-all tournament. Lose once, and your season is over. Maximum effort from every player on every team at every moment. Diehard fans. Diehard coaches. Jacked up players.

For me, the first weekend of the tournament is the most fun. That's when the first two rounds are played, when the field is pared from 64 teams to 16, just like that. The monumental upsets happen on this weekend. You have basketball played from coast to coast, simultaneously across four times zones. Overlapping games. Games that start at noon and don't end until well past midnight. I go bleary-eyed from watching all the matchups, to the point where the players become little more than flickering images dashing and darting across my TV screen. I watch so many images of athletes juking, alley-ooping, backdooring, picking and rolling and crossover dribbling that my eyes start to roll. I've actually gotten nauseated watching the games.

So, why do I do it? Because, man, I love college basketball. There just isn't anything like it.

OK, gotta go. Duke, my alma mater, is coming on. Ahhh, yes. Another game!

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