Skip to content

Ten crazy things to expect from March Madness

Mar 19, 2013, 1:00 PM EDT

norfolk_getty Getty Images

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.

source:

photo courtesy Middle Tennessee State Spirit Teams

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.

Latest Posts
  1. Report: Mark Tollefs0n transfers to Arizona, eligible immediately

    Apr 24, 2015, 8:51 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Kaleb Tarczewski decided to return to Arizona earlier in the day.

  2. Duke raises 2015 national championship banner (VIDEO)

    Apr 24, 2015, 8:15 PM EDT

    Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 8.03.53 PM

    The fifth banner is now hanging in Cameron Indoor Stadium.

  3. DePaul loses junior guard, incoming recruit

    Apr 24, 2015, 6:56 PM EDT

    AP AP

    DePaul lost a junior guard and a three-star forward (for the second time) on Friday evening.

  4. Shannon Evans transfers to Arizona State, reunites with Bobby Hurley

    Apr 24, 2015, 4:21 PM EDT

    AP AP

    The second team All-MAC guard will have two years of eligibility left.

  5. Florida forward Chris Walker officially entering NBA Draft

    Apr 24, 2015, 2:35 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Walker’s career didn’t pan out the way anyone expected, but he’s headed to the pro game after two seasons.

  6. 2015 College Basketball Updated Early Entry List

    Apr 24, 2015, 2:15 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Who’s going pro? Who’s returning to school? Who are we still waiting to hear from?

  7. Providence announces return of point guard Kris Dunn for 2015-16 season

    Apr 24, 2015, 1:52 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    A roster that will be both young and talented returns its leader as Dunn will be back for another season.

  8. Five-star guard Malik Newman commits to Mississippi State

    Apr 24, 2015, 1:14 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    It was reported earlier this week that Newman would be headed to Starkville, and he made it official Friday afternoon.

  9. Arizona center Kaleb Tarczewski announces return for senior season

    Apr 24, 2015, 12:55 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    The return of “Zeus” means that Arizona will have one returning starter from last year’s 34-4 team.

  10. UPDATED: 2015-2016 College Basketball Way-Too-Early Preseason Rankings

    Apr 24, 2015, 12:16 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    The return of Buddy Hield pushes previously unranked Oklahoma into our way too early rankings.

  11. Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield returning for senior season

    Apr 24, 2015, 11:34 AM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    The reigning Big 12 Player of the Year has some unfinished business to attend to next season.

  12. Kentucky forward Alex Poythress returning for senior season

    Apr 24, 2015, 11:15 AM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Poythress played in eight games before suffering a torn ACL in practice.

  13. Former Coppin State guard headed to Pittsburgh for final season

    Apr 24, 2015, 9:35 AM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Sterling Smith averaged 13.9 points and 4.9 rebounds per game at Coppin State last season.

  14. Louisiana forward Shawn Long to return for senior season

    Apr 23, 2015, 9:22 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Long averaged a double-double for the third consecutive season in 2014-15. He’ll hang around to make a run at a fourth.

  15. Arizona forward Stanley Johnson enters 2015 NBA Draft

    Apr 23, 2015, 8:01 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Johnson led the Wildcats in scoring last season while also averaging 6.5 rebounds per contest.

  16. Former George Mason signee becomes Minnesota’s sixth 2015 addition

    Apr 23, 2015, 6:50 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Minnesota had a need for added depth on the wing, and the addition of Ahmad Gilbert helps in that regard.

  17. VCU lands former Oral Roberts guard Korey Billbury

    Apr 23, 2015, 5:01 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    A second team All-Summit League selection last season, Billbury will be eligible immediately for VCU.

  18. California guard Tyrone Wallace to return for senior season

    Apr 23, 2015, 4:05 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Wallace led the Golden Bears in points, rebounds and assists last season.