Mar 19, 2013, 1:00 PM EDT
All of sports are somewhat unpredictable. If they weren’t, nobody would watch. And most certainly nobody would fill out brackets if the outcome were that easy to determine. Athletes would play sports just to – ugh – stay healthy, and there would be no need for competitive fire or excellence.
So why is March singled out for the sobriquet “Madness”? Let me count the ways.
1. The three-pointers will fall: The three-pointer has become the great equalizer that makes even the lowliest team incredibly dangerous. Can’t entice a 7-foot behemoth to play at a small agricultural college in the sticks? No problem. Get three or four small, quick guys and let them bomb away. Example: Ali Farokhmanesh and Northern Iowa gunned down top seed Kansas in 2010, earning a Sweet 16 berth.
2. Players will forget the rules of basketball: This happens so often in college hoops that it drives NBA fans crazy. In the heat of the moment, 17-22 year olds make mistakes, often drastic mistakes, like shooting an off-balance three-pointer when an easy inside two-pointer would have tied the game. It’s really more situational awareness than ignorance of the rules, but it’s definitely the sort of thing that makes us potato-chip eating spectators shout invective from the couch. The most famous example is Chris Webber calling a timeout Michigan did not have in a 1993 title-game loss to North Carolina.
3. Referees will forget the rules of basketball: Again, nobody’s literally forgetting the rules, but we’ve all seen violations called unevenly. It’s bound to happen again this year. The calls most fraught with danger for a ref are blocking and charging, in which a high-speed collision between two players must be assessed as a foul for one team or the other. Excessive touch-fouls (light contact that is technically a foul, but slows the game down and effects the outcome disproportionately), lane violations and figuring out whether a defensive player made a clean block or committed a goal-tending violation are also matters of national outrage at this time of year.
4. Full-court pressure will cause chaos: If you’re an old-ish guy like me, this brings to mind the “Forty Minutes of Hell” deployed by Nolan Richardson’s Arkansas teams of the 90s. UNLV also tended to play this way in the Tarkanian years. These days, the finest example is practiced by Shaka Smart’s VCU Rams, who rode “Havoc” all the way to the Final Four a couple of years ago, and are a threat to do so again. When the press is on, it’s bewildering to opponents and exciting to watch.
5. Crazy players will light up the screen: Colorful characters can be hard to come by in college hoops. Coaches tend to tamp down the outrageous antics, but some guys are just irrepressible. This year, the guy you need to watch is Marshall Henderson, who absolutely loves being on television, and has become an internet star for trolling opposing fan bases with abandon. Most recently, he did a smarty-pants version of the Gator Chomp in the waning moments of the SEC title game. We may have to rename 2013 “Marsh Madness” if Henderson takes his team on a run.
6. Colorful coaches will say stuff they probably shouldn’t: Only in sports are grown men allowed – nay, encouraged – to act like toddlers. NCAA coaches will stomp, scream, swear and even get physical as the tension ratchets up. And that’s just during the game. Some coaches make headlines by showing off during organized practice sessions, or sounding off from the podium afterward. Quotable coaches abound in this field of 68, with Marquette’s Buzz Williams joining legends like Tom Izzo, Roy Williams, Rick Pitino and Bill Self. Heck, even nice guy Tom Crean might give someone a talking-to when he gets his dander up.
7. Games will end on thrilling defensive plays: We talk so much about the buzzer-beaters, which gives short shrift to the guys who put in the extra effort to snuff them out. Think Hakim Warrick laying out and just getting his fingertips on a three-point try to preserve Syracuse’s lone national title in 2003.
8. Mascots will amuse and baffle you: You’ve probably seen the likes of Sparty, Albert E. Gator, and Willie the Wildcat. They’re on constant display during football season. The inclusiveness of the NCAA tournament brings some lesser-known doozies into the public eye. The St. Louis Billiken may frighten children. Wichita State’s Wushock is the meanest bundle of wheat I’ve ever seen. Here, there be Jackrabbits. The pinnacle, though, is Lightning (pictured): the Middle Tennessee State mascot is a blue Pegasus who shoots thunderbolts out of his nose. Top that.
9. Student sections will cut up: Some kids take spring break in Florida, California or South Texas. Others combine the unofficial college holiday with college basketball, with all that entails. Student sections are somewhat corralled in neutral venues, but often, they’re the only thing keeping the whole shebang from becoming a bloodless corporate sponsorship opportunity. Laugh at their chants, signs and attempts to get on television. Relish them.
10. A mystery player will make a star turn: Many, many players are well-kept secrets, known only to college-hoops obsessives like the staff of CollegeBasketballTalk. We get to play the hipster role (“I noticed him when nobody knew who he was”) when those guys get to the tourney and dazzle. Last year, Damian Lillard was socked away at Weber State – now he’s a Rookie of the Year candidate in the NBA. This year, we’ve got our eyes on the likes of Mike Muscala (Bucknell), Nate Wolters (South Dakota State) and Jamaal Franklin (San Diego State). And there may be others lurking, just waiting to show us what we’ve been missing.
Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.
Mar 9, 2014, 3:10 AM EDT
No. 4 Duke and No. 10 San Diego State picked up big home wins, and Eastern Kentucky became the second team into the NCAA tournament field on a busy Saturday.
Mar 9, 2014, 12:56 AM EDT
New Mexico led by 16 with 12:05 remaining. And then their inability to adjust to San Diego State’s 1-3-1 zone cost them the Mountain West title.
Mar 9, 2014, 12:50 AM EDT
No. 10 San Diego State overcomes a 16-point second half deficit as they knock off No. 21 New Mexico and bring home a Mountain West title. But should that change how we view the Aztecs?
Mar 9, 2014, 12:09 AM EDT
North Carolina shot nearly 60%, but getting whipped on the boards cost them dearly at Cameron.
Mar 8, 2014, 11:56 PM EDT
Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood both went off for No. 4 Duke as the Blue Devils smacked around North Carolina. Does that mean we can call them a Final Four team again?
Mar 8, 2014, 11:16 PM EDT
Get caught up on all of Saturday’s bubble action
Mar 8, 2014, 9:38 PM EDT
Creighton’s senior forward scored his 3,000th career point on Saturday night. Only seven other players have reached that total.
Mar 8, 2014, 9:24 PM EDT
Get to know the second entry into the 2014 NCAA Tournament field, the Eastern Kentucky Colonels.
Mar 8, 2014, 7:49 PM EDT
No. 3 Arizona hasn’t been the best perimeter shooting team, but they’ve been able to make up for that on most days. That wasn’t the case against Oregon, and the struggles of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Gabe York didn’t help either.
Mar 8, 2014, 7:09 PM EDT
Texas A&M celebrated Senior Day on Saturday and it included honoring former high school signee Tobi Oyedeji, who was tragically killed in a car accident in 2010 and never played for the school.
Mar 8, 2014, 6:45 PM EDT
Oregon wins its seventh straight, and the Ducks likely punched their ticket to the NCAA tournament with the win over No. 3 Arizona.
Mar 8, 2014, 6:15 PM EDT
No. 19 UConn has struggled to crack 70 points during a recent six-game stretch and it could lead to an early exit for the Huskies in the postseason.
Mar 8, 2014, 6:01 PM EDT
The top seed in next week’s American Athletic Conference was determined by an old school method Saturday afternoon.
Mar 8, 2014, 6:00 PM EDT
The Shockers are now one step closer to entering Selection Sunday undefeated.
Mar 8, 2014, 5:06 PM EDT
As Louisville sophomore forward Montrezl Harrell puts up huge numbers against great competition in the last few weeks are the Cardinals a threat to make a run at back-to-back national titles?
Mar 8, 2014, 4:14 PM EDT
No. 16 Iowa State comes from 16 points back to beat Marcus Smart and Oklahoma State, but even with the loss, the Cowboys looked even more dangerous. Read why.
Mar 8, 2014, 3:34 PM EDT
No. 8 Kansas fell on the road to West Virginia on Saturday, but the Jayhawks will take the loss knowing that the superstar version of Andrew Wiggins might have finally come to life.
Mar 8, 2014, 3:21 PM EDT
Just how concerned should we be by Kentucky’s struggles over the last two weeks?
Mar 8, 2014, 2:53 PM EDT
Oklahoma State star Marcus Smart has developed a reputation for flopping this season. Don’t, for a second, think that opposing student sections haven’t noticed.
Mar 8, 2014, 2:41 PM EDT
No. 1 Florida spent Saturday showcasing just what makes them so dangerous heading into the NCAA tournament.
- Jabari Parker, Rodney Hood score 54 in No. 4 Duke’s win over No. 14 UNC 0
- Bubble Banter: Oregon, Tennessee headline Saturday’s early winners 0
- Creighton’s Doug McDermott scores his 3,000th point (VIDEO) 0
- Oregon’s big win over No. 3 Arizona caps impressive regular season turnaround 1
- No. 8 Kansas loses, but The Andrew Wiggins Show is what’s important 1
- No. 1 Florida’s undefeated SEC season not just a by-product of their league 5
- Harvard wraps up third consecutive NCAA tournament berth (VIDEO) 0
- No. 7 Syracuse falls to Georgia Tech in a shocking home loss (9)
- College Basketball Talk’s latest Top 25 (6)
- Assigned Reading: Dean Smith’s health continues to deteriorate (6)
- For the first time in months, No. 22 Michigan State and Keith Appling look healthy (6)
- Bracketology: Eight teams in play for No. 1 seeds (6)