17 March, 2008

March Madness - NCAA tournament.

This Thursday is the start of March Madness, one of the coolest sporting events of the year. I'm quite excited about it.

March Madness is the nickname for the National Collegiate Athletic Association's men's Division 1 national basketball tournament. Hence the need for a nickname. Division 1 men's basketball is a confederation made of 31 leagues consisting of over 300 teams. These teams compete from November to March to win their leagues and also to make a national reputation about how strong they are. This is because to get into March Madness, you either have to win your league (like 31 teams do) or you have to be nominated by a committee (as the other 34 teams do).

What you end up with is a knockout tournament of 65 teams of incredible diversity from all across america, competing to be the national champions. Some of these teams are multi million dollar programs that you will see people wear the T shirts of in the UK like UCLA, North Carolina or Georgetown, others are little back water colleges like University of Texas-Arlington or Coppin State (incidentally the first team to lose 20 games in a season and make the tournament)

March Madness is like the FA cup played over 3 weekends. The first weekend is the best because there is a game on from 10am in the morning until 2am at night (US time) and there is the greatest chance of a giant killing. March Madness is also the most participatory sports event in the US as everyone fills in predictions of who is going to win each game with a similar kind of feel to our grand national sweepstakes.

I've already filled in my bracket and i'm tipping North Carolina to beat UCLA to become national champions, however, I reckon that Oregon, St Josephs, Michigan State and West Virginia are capable of pulling off some upsets.

North Carolina are probably the best team in the country, although it hurts as a Maryland fan to admit that, and the reason i think they'll win is they have the player of the year in Tyler Hansborough. He is an incredibly determined athlete who can carry his team. I think when the big games happen, he will make the difference. To see his determination in action, here he is dunking over a 7 foot 7 monster called Kenny George.

If this has somehow whetted your appetite for the tournament, you can watch games online for free via the CBS website, or you can do what I do and watch them on NASN.

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