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It’s that time of year again: The snow is thawing, the clocks have been set ahead, and the winter coats are slowly being placed back into storage in hopes of warmer days to come. These three signs can stand for only one thing: March Madness time is once again upon us. I’m referring to, of course, the annual NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament – more on the Women’s Tourney to come!
It’s been argued by many that this NCAA tourney is the finest exhibition in modern sports, and rightfully so. In no other venue are the fans privy to so much world-class competition in so small a window of time; 49 games in the first 4 days to be exact. It’s not just the quantity that intrigues most people though, it’s the quality of the games and the circumstances the athletes are placed in. Win? You move on. Lose? You go home. It’s as simple as that. The agents, mega-million dollar contracts, selfish play and blatant commercialism are all left at the door.
It is the only venue in which absolutely unknown coaches, athletes, and teams can become America’s Sweethearts in as little as a week. Just ask Christian Laettner, who netted a shot in 1992 that saw the Duke Blue Devils defeat Kentucky in the East Regional game. Ask the 1986 Villanova Wildcats, whom the experts gave zero chance to win, before defeating the Georgetown Hoyas [led by Patrick Ewing] and raising the National Trophy. Ask a green-eared 19 year-old named Michael Jordan, who hit the tournament-winning shot for the University of North Carolina in 1982, catapulting him to national stardom. Finally ask the 2005 George Mason Patriots, who many argued weren’t even worthy of being in the tournament. They defeated the top-ranked UConn Huskies and punched their first ticket to the Final Four. Dreams are made and shattered every single year at the NCAA tournament, and the players and fans wouldn’t have it any other way.
The overall favorites for this year’s tournament are the Kansas Jayhawks - led by the sure-handed Sherron Collins and the bulky Cole Aldrich. Other teams with a good shot at winning the tournament are Syracuse, Duke, Kentucky, West Virginia, Villanova, and Kansas State. The action begins Wednesday night with the play-in game, with the rest following on Thursday at noon.
Be sure to fill out a bracket, pick this year’s Cinderella team, and catch a case of 2010 March Madness! Post your picks in Weplay’s March Madness group and you’ll be entered to win a LeBron James swag bag.