So, here we are, at the beginning of one the most exciting times of the year for me....the NCAA tournament. Being a UNC fan, this time of year is usually enjoyable. The Tarheels have a long history of success and that is no different this year. I saw that most of the ESPN guys (except, Jay Williams...who picked Duke because....of course) pick UNC to win it all. The Heels lost in the championship game last year in probably the most heartbreaking way I have seen UNC lose. They lost on an NBA distance three from a player who hadn't hit a shot all game because of course they did. Anyway, the reason this time of year is exciting to me is because of.....the brackets. Yep, the brackets are the main reason that this tournament is a billion dollar cash cow for the NCAA even though they officially frown upon gambling (don't get me started on the NCAA....that is for another post, another day). To demostrate how popular the brackets are they are officially announced during a selection show which commercial prices come close to the Super Bowl prices.
For the most part, filling out brackets are fun for me. I usually have four variations of brackets:
1.) A UNC goes all the way bracket: no questions asked and I don't care if they are the 10th seed....National Championship!
2.) An all upset bracket: This is where I put all of the upsets. I don't get foolish and put a 16 seed over a 1 seed, but I usually pick the 12th seed over the 5 seed, etc
3.) My real bracket picks (including games where I think UNC could lose): This is usually a bracket I do when there's money on the line.
4.) Duke losing in the first round: self explanatory
The NCAA tournament is currently the event that the organization hangs it hat on to make money and I don't blame them. The tournament is filled with interesting backstories and teams and the despiration of lose and your season is over makes for good TV. Some of my favorite tournament moments have been:
- The 1990 Championship Game between UNLV and Duke: the game was a study in opposites. In one corner you had Duke who were the clean cut white guys who played the game 'the right way' and in the other corner you had UNLV who came in with guys you didn't normally see in the college game let alone all on one team. From the tip off, UNLV ran the Blue Devils out of the building. They ended up winning by 30 which was (and still is) the record margin of victory for a championship game. To be fair, Duke went on to win the next two years in a row, including avenging this defeat to UNLV in the 1991 Final Four
- The 1993 Championship Game between UNC and Michigan: the 1993 team may be one of my favorite Tarheel teams of all time because of George Lynch. They featured Lynch, Eric Montross, Derrick Phelps, Brian Reese and sharpshooter Donald Williams. Going into the game, I really thought that Michigan, who had the Fab Five, was going to run away with the game, but Donald W kept the Tarheels in the game and thanks to CWebb's bonehead (he traveled first) timeout call....UNC won. It was the first year the team I remember rooting for actually won.
2001 First Round game between Hampton University and Iowa State: Most of the time whenever an HBCU team goes to the Big Dance, they are used as a warmup for whatever team they face. This year was different from the beginning, Hampton had a little point guard who was out playing Iowa State's more known point guard Jamaal Tinsley. I clearly remember the crowd turning on Iowa State during the second half and making the game essentially a home game for the Pirates. The announcers just couldn't get over how much HU's band was rocking during the game! The cameraman kept doing closeups on the HU's cheerleaders. I truly think most of the people at CBS involved in televising the game had never seen an HBCU game.
2008 Davidson vs Kansas: Being from North Carolina, I had already heard about Stef Curry and Davidson, but wow....Curry really started his run during this tournament and game. He appeared small and normal looking but was shooting from WAY downtown and was hitting almost everything he put up. Davidson came into the tourney a 10th seed and was a missed three from making the Final Four where they would have played....UNC. As a Tarheel fan, that would have been a dangerous game.....
2009 Championship Game between UNC and Michigan State: For obvious reasons, but most of the analysts picked Michigan State to upset the Heels because of the run the Spartans were on during the tourney. Well, the game was over at half time.....
There are countless other memories of games throughout the years, but those are the ones I remember distinctly. The other reason I love the tourney is.....yep, you guessed it...the 'One Shining Moment' video. If UNC bows out early, I can watch it and while I'm sad because it means the college season is over...its fun to watch a recap of the tournament. But if UNC loses in the Final Four or championship game like they did last year....no way baby...no way. Anyway...I got UNC vs Duke for the championship this year with UNC winning in a blowout