‘March Madness’. Just the mention of it is so exciting because for me, it’s the best basketball event known to man! I’ve been watching March Madness since I was a kid and still love watching it at the age of 26. There’s nothing more exciting than watching so many players grow in college, with a select few going on to become the best they can be once they are drafted into the NBA!
What is it?
For anyone not in the loop, March Madness is more formally known as the ‘NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament’. There are 351 teams in the NCAA Division 1 and 68 teams play in March Madness. On ‘Selection Sunday’, 32 teams get automatic entry to the competition through their conferences and divisions. The remaining 36 are selected by a panel based on form, star players and other criteria.
The first round is called the ‘First Four’, where the lower seeds have to play it out to enter the competition and this is where it gets interesting… To get from here, through the first and second round, to the ‘Sweet 16’, ‘Elite Eight’ and ‘Final Four’, a lower seed team will play a top seed. With passionate performances at crazy points-scoring speeds, this competition showcases the ultimate basketball skill needed to win the all important National Championship.
March Madness is where fairytales can be made and an underdog can strive. In Round 1 we saw No. 13 seed Buffalo knock out No. 4 Arizona, Round 2 saw No. 11 Loyola Chicago beat No. 3 Tennessee, and in the Sweet 16 No. 9 Florida State beat No. 4 Gonzaga with some great defense and rotation tactics.
This is why I find this tournament so exciting. The spotlight is on all of these young players to catch the eye of the pro scouts to get picked for the all important NBA draft.
The thrills and spills… Donte Ingram hits a buzzer-beater three-pointer to lift Loyola-Chicago (No. 11) past Miami (No. 6) in the 1st Round.
Guessing (and for a lot of people, betting money) on the results of an entire tournament isn’t easy, but it’s all part of the fun…
"Just because I have more time to watch games doesn’t mean my picks will be better, but here are my brackets this year.”
- Barack Obama
Best of the best
Some of basketball’s most successful players and recognised names established their careers through March Madness performances. Tim Duncan, Steph Curry, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Lew Alcindor and Michael Jordan to name just a few impressed at college level to go on to NBA greatness.
Who to watch
With a future MVP or two likely to make names for themselves, I like the look of the following players becoming the next generation of NBA stars:
Deandre Ayton (Arizona), Devonte’ Graham (Kansas), Isaiah Wilkins (Virginia), Jalen Brunson (Villanova), Jemerrio Jones (New Mexico), Jonathan Stark (Murray State), Killian Tillie (Gonzaga), Marvin Bagley III (Duke) (ACC player of the year who averages a double-double), Michael Porter (Missouri), Mikal Bridges (Villanova), Mike Daum, Jr. (South Dakota State), Trae Young (Oklahoma).
Honourable mention after Round 1:
Houston’s Guard Rob Gray has already shone as one of the more charismatic and impressive players in the first round (with 39 points and a game-winning scoop-shot against against San Diego State).
The Road To The FinalAt the time of writing we're now down to the Final Four: Kansas (1), Villanova (1), Loyola Chicago (11) and Michigan (3) who play on Saturday. As seeded outsiders (and tying the record for the lowest seed to ever reach the Final Four), the neutrals favouring a fairytale will want to see Chicago go all the way at this stage. They also happen to have a 98-year-old scouting report writing nun behind them. Odds are still favouring a Villanova victory however, with the team firmly fixated on a second national championship in three years.
Keep up (if you can!) with the March Madness action live across BT Sport.