This archived article was written by: Robert Young
The brackets have been established, the seedings have been distributed, the ball has been tossed in the air and for basketball fans and non-fans alike the office pool competition is heating up. Whether you’re a die-hard hoops fanatic who lives and dies with every shot, or just one of those people who fills out your tournament bracket according to a school’s colors, the NCAA tournament often consumes the lives of people for one month a year. In fact, the tournament has become so synonymous with American culture that it has become an unofficial month long holiday season, dubbed “March Madness.”
From the comical antics of the mascots to the scowls of the coaches, and from the passionate fans to the heroics of the players, the tournament never fails to produce dramatic emotional highs and lows that even the greatest script writers could not create.
This year’s rendition of the NCAA tournament promises to be no different. With no clear cut favorite, each participating team seems capable of making a run at the Final Four. The tournament’s four top rated seeds include the University of Kentucky, Duke University, and Stanford University. The most intriguing number one seeded team, perhaps of all time, is tiny Saint Joseph’s University, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. With less than 4,000 students, Saint Joseph’s basketball program has been relatively unknown. This season the Hawks were the first division one men’s basketball team to go undefeated in the regular season since the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers, and in turn have sparked national attention.
Led by 5 foot 10 inch point guard Jameer Nelson, whose tiny stature and feisty play is a microcosm of the Saint Joseph’s squad, the hawks seemed poised to place themselves amongst the great programs in college basketball, despite many experts still questioning if St. Joe’s is as good as advertised.
The 2004 tournament is characterized by the parity between each of the teams. More than ever, the balance of power has shifted from having a handful of dominant teams, to now having a dozen or more teams with a legitimate chance of being crowned national champions. What does this trend mean? It means closer games; more upsets, and makes it more difficult to predict the outcome of the tournament. Essentially, it means more fun for the fans. Last year the Syracuse Orangemen surprised everyone as a lower seed by defeating three number one seeds in route to winning the school’s first ever-national championship. Don’t be surprised to see a similar Cinderella story in this year’s tournament.
No Utah teams had much luck in the tournement. Utah State failed to make the Tournement despite their 25-4 record. The University of Utah made the tournement after receiving an automatic bid as a result of winning the Mountain West Conference tournament. They were ranked number eleven and squared off against Boston College, but lost 58-51. Also, BYU got in the tournament by getting an at- large bid by the NCAA tournament committee. They entered the tourney as a 12th seed and played the defending national champion Syracuse University in the first round of the Phoenix Region also losing. The final score was Syracuse 80 BYU 75.
The tournament will wrap up in early April with the Final Four in San Antonio. The road to the Final Four is certain to be full of drama. With 65 teams all sharing the same goal of cutting down the nets in San Antonio, it will be exciting to see whose boyhood dreams are realized.