Sports

Is The ‘Madness’ Of March As Great As It Seems?

K.J. Maura (11) and Jourdan Grant of the UMBC Retrievers celebrate after their 74-54 upset victory over the Virginia Cavaliers during the first round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament March 16. (Courtesy of Jared C. Tilton via Getty Images)

Madness and March, you’ve heard it all before. Any cliché to describe the atmosphere of the NCAA tournament annually, and this year specifically, would just feel tired at this point. Sorry to be the downer.

Let me backpedal for a second. Last week was insanity. What we saw across the men’s NCAA Tournament was absolutely wild. As usual, there were buzzer beaters, coaches with absurd comments, and close-ups of crying fans. However, the weekend took a turn for the absolute absurd with a few developments.

Of course the University of Maryland, Baltimore County’s upset over Virginia was historic, and not just because they were the first No. 16 seed to ever beat a No. 1 seed.

Say what you will about Virginia’s playing style — call it boring or simple — but the Cavaliers were dominant this season. Virginia finished the regular season with only two losses, winning the regular season of the most talented conference in the NCAA, while sporting arguably one of the best defenses of the decade, maybe even ever. While UVA was on their way to the No. 1 overall seed, the Retrievers lost to lowly Stony Brook but a month ago.

By draining three-pointers like Stephen Curry did in his days at Davidson, UMBC was able to draw UVA’s pack-line defense out to the three-point line. That was when overnight superstar Jairus Lyles was able to penetrate off the dribble and finish difficult shots at the rim over and over again. UMBC did not get lucky — they absolutely dismantled the No. 1 team in the country.

Beyond that, Nevada and Loyola Chicago’s comebacks and buzzer beaters were insane and historic in their own rights. We even saw Eric Musselman cursing on live TV. And national sensation Sister Jean. Awesome, right?

However, even as I try to rally behind a lot of these Cinderella stories, I find myself disinterested.

Let’s be honest: A lot of the first- and second-round games were pretty bad. For as many close games we got to watch, there were plenty of blowouts. Seeing West Virginia press Marshall to death got boring quickly, and let’s not pretend that watching Syracuse make only one three while beating Michigan State was a thrill ride either. Ultimately, he first weekend of March brought us atypical levels of madness, but there was a lot of “meh” too.

The first weekend is supposed to give us upsets, and the second weekend is supposed to bring us the best against the best. This year, though, I don’t know if that’s the case.

Looking at some of the matchups, especially in the decimated South Region, there are few games I see on the schedule that make me say, “oh, I’ve got to watch this for that matchup, to see those players go up head-to-head, or that underdog take on that top seed.”

I know this might not be the most fun stance to take, but now that we’re in the later rounds I want to feel like I’m watching the best teams in the country competing. However, with all of the upsets that happened, watching Kansas State versus Kentucky doesn’t make me want to turn on my television.

Wait, wait, wait. Timeout. I just finished watching Nevada against Loyola-Chicago. I’m back on the madness train. I hope it’s March forever. Team Sister Jean for life.

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