Everybody has a favorite holiday. For some, it may be Thanksgiving. For some, Christmas. Others may prefer the Fourth of July.
College basketball fans have March Madness.
As I type this, the clock is striking midnight, turning the page to February 26th. There are officially only 72 hours until March. The time is coming for so many to completely indulge themselves in end of season games with massive tournament implications, conference tournaments with teams fighting for their tournament lives, and random Cinderella stories that nobody can possibly see coming.
Just today we saw multiple teams win massive, season-altering games that could have massive implications in tournament seeding, whether it be the big dance or their conference tournament.
This is the time of year that college basketballs greatest stories are written. In recent years, we have seen St. Peters magical run to the Elite 8 as a 15 seed, Max Abmas and Oral Roberts upset 2 seed Ohio State en route to a Sweet 16 appearance, and Loyola Chicago and Sister Jean uniting the country on their run to the Final 4 back in 2018.
Some of the more memorable sports moments of my childhood are from the greatest tournament in sports. In 2011, a Kemba Walker-led UConn made one of the most magical runs in the history of college hoops, surging through the Big East Tournament and the Big Dance all the way to a national title, giving us one of the greatest step back jumpers ever on the way there:
Those before me have their own memories from March. In 1985, 8th seed Villanova became the lowest seed to ever win the National Title. Their miraculous path included wins over Maryland, led by Len Bias (rest in peace), Brad Daughtrey-led North Carolina, and number 1 seed Michigan before topping Patrick Ewing's Georgetown Hoyas in the title game.
Then there was the 6th seeded 1983 North Carolina State Wolfpack, who beat Houston's Phi Slamma Jamma in the big game after running through Ralph Sampson's Virginia squad, along with UNLV, AND Georgia, all top 3 seeds. That run also provided us with one of the greatest celebrations in sports history after Lorenzo Charles' game winning dunk, via Jimmy Valvano (also rest in peace):
Moments like these are why college basketball in March is so special. It creates moments that live forever, and that unite generations of fans.
As an Illinois fan one of the moments I think of when I think of the magic of March is the 2005 comeback against Arizona in the Elite 8. Down 14 with 3 to play, Dee Brown, Deron Williams and Luther Head did the unthinkable.
Moments like this solidify players as program legends, tournament legends, and college hoops legends in general.
A lot of people spend the regular season trying to find out who will be the next team to make a Cinderella run and shock the world. That's where people go wrong though. There is absolutely no way to tell.
And that's the beauty of it.
Cover image via Getty Images