Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Is there anything better than the dance?

Illustration by Kai Bowen

With 12 minutes left in the first half in Spokane, Alabama’s Aaron Estrada pump-faked, got his defender to jump, then rose to finish at the rim. He was met by the hand of Grand Canyon University’s Gabe McGlothlan swatting his shot away. Joven Blacksher Jr. grabbed the ball and ran down the court for GCU, finding Tyon Grant-Foster on the three-point line with his pass. Grant-Foster let his shot fly and I watched as he drained the three for 12-seeded GCU to take the lead over 4-seeded Alabama. Despite the score only being 9-8 through the first quarter of the game, almost the entire stadium shot to their feet with the loudest stadium pop I have experienced. Nearly everyone, myself included (despite choosing Alabama to win the game), was rooting for GCU. For the first time in my life, I truly felt the March Madness magic.

As a huge sports fan, there is absolutely nothing in sports that can come even close to the NCAA college basketball tournament, fondly known as March Madness. The tournament is made up of 64 teams from across the country who earn their berth to the dance in one of two fashions. First, they earn an automatic bid if they win their conference tournament. Second, the remaining spots are filled up by teams chosen by a committee based on their performance over the course of the season. The teams which have made their way to the tournament are then seeded one through 16 based on in-depth statistics to present the best teams with higher seedings. Four teams will each receive a seeding of one through 16, one in each of four regions of the country (East, West, South and Midwest) to set up the bracket. With this format, teams that are on fire to end the season are still brought to the dance, often making a  “Cinderella run” deep into the tournament (NC State this year, Florida Atlantic University last year, etc.). 

The sports world has turned stale. The Los Angeles Dodgers may be the greatest team ever assembled in any sport, Manchester City won both the Champions’ League and their sixth Premier League in seven years last season, Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs are the new Tom Brady and New England Patriots and the Boston Celtics have made the best basketball team seen since the 2018-19 Golden State Warriors. It seems the champions of each sports league are decided from the start. Even the World Cup, my long time favorite sporting event, has begun to let me down.

Unlike each of these examples, March Madness never lets me down in terms of excitement and uncertainty. I only correctly picked one team inside the Final Four this year. The last time the betting favorites to win the title went on to do so was Villanova six years ago.

We have seen four 15-seeds make it to the Sweet 16 (third round of the tournament, includes 16 teams), three of which have happened in the last three years. There were also many special 11-seeds to make it to the Final Four. The legendary Loyola Chicago made their run in 2018, starring Sister Jean and their three straight games decided by late game-winning shots. UCLA reached it in 2021, only stopped by a half-court winner by fourth overall draft pick Jalen Suggs to take Gonzaga to the Final Four. Even this year, we have seen NC State reach their Final Four matchup against Purdue, being led by fan-favorite D.J. Burns. Very rarely is this tournament remembered for high ranked seeds and dominant winning runs, but instead March Madness is made great by the fact that ANYBODY can win on any day. When you only have one chance to beat a team, that means everything. Plus, when a player can only have five years of eligibility, talent enters and exits faster than in professional sports, keeping things fresh and new.

This is why March Madness stands on its own above all other sporting events; Cinderella stories by small programs, memorable buzzer beaters and the forever search for “the perfect bracket.” Even if I go through the pain each year watching the teams I chose to go far get upset in the second or third round, March Madness will always be the one sporting event I will never be able to take my eyes off.

Despite being a 12 seed, GCU took down five-seed Saint Mary’s and brought their game against Alabama down to the wire, only losing control of the game in the final two minutes. Despite being large underdogs, they fought tooth and nail and nearly won.

March Madness is the one battle where David is still able to challenge Goliath, and in a world of ever increasing predictability, it is a much needed breath of fresh air.

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