BY NATALIE HEAVREN, SPORTS EDITOR; DOMENIC ALLEGRA ASSISTANT SPORTS EDITOR
If you know what college basketball is, you know what March Madness is. I remember watching the first-round games back in my fifth-grade math class, around the time when they first started streaming the games online. This was also the first time I filled out a bracket on paper.
I came from a house that was not really into college basketball; my Dad watched baseball, and my Mom watched football. It was not until my sophomore year of high school that I started watching what is called “The Madness.”
In my opinion, the only thing that comes close to the NCAA tournament is the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Both are insanely entertaining to watch. With the seven-game series in the NHL, and the upsets and comebacks in the NCAA, they are the best of both worlds.
March Madness brings people together as they fill brackets, host watch parties and more. Nothing beats watching the championship game while eating chicken wings with friends.
Before coming to Mason, I cheered for Georgetown. Why? Well, my Dad went to a seminary school with no athletic programs, and my mom went to American University, who literally have never won a game in the “big dance,” so I did not have much of a choice. I chose Georgetown because my father taught at the law school; that’s it.
Obviously, now that I am at Mason, I cheer for Mason to make the tournament. However, that has not happened in the last eight years, so I do not know how or if I will see this team ever make the tournament while I’m here.
Regardless, as I am now a Patriot, I root for the underdogs and the Cinderellas. This is one of the reasons as to why I loved watching the University of Maryland Baltimore County play the University of Virginia and seeing Loyola University Chicago make it to the Final Four, just the fourth team to do so as a No. 1 seed.
Being in the atmosphere of college basketball games is the reason as to why I have become the basketball fan I am today, and being in the NCAA’s top-rated pep band in the country does not hurt either.
So, as we approach the Final Four, I cannot help but think of being 7 years old, watching the run with my dad the last time we went to the Final Four.
Will we ever see another Cinderella like Mason? In my opinion, not for a long time. They went through a lot to get to the Final Four, and if that is to be replicated, some pieces will have to fall into the right places. It is moments like these that make March Madness great.
As a Connecticut native, March Madness is truly the most wonderful time of the year and has provided me with plenty of memorable moments.Their Men’s and Women’s basketball teams have won 14 combined championships in my lifetime (hopefully championship 15 is coming soon).
From Kemba Walker’s incredible run in 2011 to both the men’s and women’s teams winning in 2014, to two years later watching the women’s team win their fourth championship in a row and in 2018 watching them break a plethora of records en route to winning 140-52, there’s no shortage of reasons for me to love March Madness.
However, my favorite NCAA tournament moment was not any game involving Connecticut. Though those teams were all given chances, my favorite memory was watching one team no one thought would win.
March 16, 2018, was a really good day. After watching the Mason Women’s Basketball team win their first postseason game, my dad and I remained in our living room to watch UMBC get blown out by Virginia … or so I thought. When my dad asked me when UMBC was on, I said they would be blown out at 9:20 on TNT.
I teased my dad, a 1989 UMBC graduate, throughout the first half whenever they held a lead briefly or made a great shot, because who would imagine a 16-seed beating a 1-seed?
The Retrievers started out hot, taking a 27-21 lead early in the second half. I jokingly told my dad, “It’s happening!” to which he would respond, “There’s still plenty of time left.” This interaction would be repeated countless times before the end of the game, even as UMBC pulled ahead by 20 (I just don’t think he wanted to get his hopes up).
UMBC would go on to be the first 16-seed to beat a 1-seed in the men’s tournament, and the joy and excitement my dad exuded were not something I had seen before. He relayed stories of UMBC’s athletics while he was there as part of the 20th graduating class, as well as the fact he had never imagined they’d do something like this.
His excitement fueled mine. I had seen him excited when UConn held 15 championships between the men and women’s teams, but this was the most enthusiastic I’d ever seen him at the end of a game, watching UMBC win. Getting to experience the game with him was something I’ll never forget.
My favorite part of March Madness is not knowing what great moment or upset is coming next. Watching the UConn women win 140-52 brought me just as much joy as when the University of Oregon reached the Elite Eight as a 10-seed, or the University of Washington reached the Final Four as a 7-seed.
On the men’s side, aside from UMBC upsetting Virginia, watching as Loyola-Chicago reached the Final Four as an 11-seed, Florida Gulf Coast University became the first 15-seed to advance to the Sweet 16, and Yale University defeated Baylor University were all magical moments. But part of what makes them magical is that none of them were expected.
As the first weekend of March Madness wraps up, there naturally have been unexpected upsets and magical moments, but the most wonderful part is that there is always more magic to come.