It’s that time of the year again. The greatest sporting event of the year is here — the NCAA tournament, better known as March Madness.
It’s a special time of the year, as no work gets done across the country on the first two days of the tournament with eyes glued to TVs, computer screens and phones. The brackets are filled out, and now it is time to see which of the 68 teams will be crowned the national champion.
The upsets are the most exciting thing in March Madness. When the underdog team defies the odds to take down a college basketball powerhouse, you cannot help but get behind them; that is, of course, if it was not your team that got upset. As a Michigan State fan, I have seen both sides of the coin.
In 2015, the Spartans entered the big dance as a seven-seed, and they played Cinderella all the way to the Final Four, where they eventually lost to one-seed Duke. (Tom Izzo always loses to Coach K). That team was led by upperclassmen Travis Trice, Brandon Dawson, Bryn Forbes and Denzel Valentine. The following season, the team built of their success and entered the tournament as a two seed after winning the Big Ten Tournament.
However, their dreams of competing for a national championship were cut short by 15-seed Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU), who upset the Spartans 90-81 in the first round. The Blue Raiders shot 57 percent from behind the arc, knocking down 11 three-pointers. Michigan State could not keep up, and they, along with my feelings, were upset.
But that is the magic of March. The old saying holds true: “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” No other sporting event encapsulates this more than the NCAA tournament, because it is single game elimination. Was MTSU a better team than Michigan State in 2016? No, but were they better in that one game? Yes. The tournament allows for the ultimate David and Goliath stories. As you prepare to spend your next few days indulging in all of the basketball madness here are a few matchups to keep an eye on.
Eleven-seed Belmont University takes on six-seed University of Maryland today at 2:10 p.m. Belmont won their first-four-in game against Temple University on Tuesday night for their first-ever win in the NCAA tournament as an at-large bid. The team is coached by Rick Byrd, who has over 800 career wins on his resume. The Bruins can stretch the floor and shoot the three. They average the second most points per game in the nation. Look for them to make a little noise in the coming days.
Twelve-seed Murray State University takes on five-seed Marquette University today at 3:30 p.m. Both teams are led by NBA draft-bound guards. Marquette’s Markus Howard is averaging 25 points per game this season and led the team to a Big East championship. Murray State has one of the most electric players in the country, Ja Morant. Morant is averaging a double-double this year with 24.6 points per game and 10 assists per game. Morant has shown explosiveness off the dribble and the ability to lead his team to big wins. Look for the future top-three pick in the draft to lead his team to the upset against Marquette.
The seven-seed in the Midwest region may be the best basketball team you have not heard of. No. 19 Wofford University is 12th in the nation in scoring and are top three in three-point field goals made. The Terriers have four players on their roster that shoot above 40 percent from behind the arc, and Seton Hall ranks 139 in three-point field goal defense. Look for Wofford to light it up from deep and dance past the first weekend of the tournament.
Of course, these predictions could come to nothing, but again, that is why March Madness is so much fun.