Selection Sunday is three weeks away and I have to admit, I have not watched as much college basketball this year as I would have liked. Come March 15, the entire sports world will be a buzz about which teams made the tournament, and which teams bubbles’ burst.
Luckily for those teams who will find themselves on the outside looking in, they still have three weeks to make their dreams come true. No, I am not talking about going to Disney World which teams can do whether they make this years NCAA Tournament or not.
The thing that makes this tournament so great is that literally any team can make the tournament any given year. Market size or ownership does not matter, as it seems to always be talked about in professional sports. 347 teams in 32 different conferences enter Championship Week with the hope of not losing another game until next season. This widespread chance is what makes this time of year so special.
We have plenty of time to talk about who is going to make the Final Four or which double digit seed is going to make it to the Sweet 16, but for now the conversation is focused on which 36 teams will get an at-large bid.
We got an early taste of two NCAA Tournament teams facing off last week in one of the best rivalries in sports. No. 15 North Carolina gave No. 4 Duke all they can handle at Cameron Indoor Stadium falling in overtime, 92-90. The Tar Heels found themselves down by ten for most of the first half and did not take their first lead of the game until the 15:22 mark of the second half. North Carolina then found themselves up ten and in control with 3:56 remaining in the game. Standout freshman Tyus Jones took over in the final minutes for Duke and gave us what we all wanted: five more minutes of incredible basketball.
The Tar Heels went blow for blow with the Blue Devils in overtime, but could not get the one rebound they needed, when they were down one with about 30 seconds left. Keep in mind North Carolina fought back on the road against Duke and nearly beat the Blue Devils without getting much of anything from their best player and junior leader Marcus Paige. Paige went 2-for-11 and scored only five points. He picked up two quick fouls in the first four and a half minutes and sat for most of the half. At this point with Duke up by double digits at home, I am guilty of losing focus in the game thinking the Tar Heels would fold. Boy was I wrong!
This game was just another great episode in the Tobacco Road Rivalry, and a preview for what I believe will be another exciting and entertaining postseason. The games for every team from here on out will only mean more and more, making the action on the court that much better. Duke and North Carolina are just two of the teams that seem poised to make a deep run come March. And luckily for us, they play again to close out their regular seasons on March 7.
As an obsessed basketball nut, the only advice I can give you is to watch as many different teams as possible, even if it’s for only a couple minutes. Watching the big name teams that are always on national television will help you when trying to predict the Elite 8, but getting the know the “mid-major” (I hate using that phrase) teams is what will help you be successful when staring at your blank NCAA Tournament bracket the third week of March. Certain players will stand out on those lesser-known teams, and one player is all it takes for any team to make a Sweet 16 run (and ruin your bracket).
There is still time to immerse yourself in college basketball to give yourself the illusion that you can correctly fill out an entire bracket, or at least do it better than all of your friends. March is hands down the greatest month of sports, and it nearly upon us once again.