Thursday, March 22, 2012

Lute provides March Madness perspective

By Nathan Shoup, Sports Reporter

Two class periods, approximately 36 hours of my life, a couple homework assignments and a few showers.

These are just a small handful of the things I missed or put off during the first weekend of the men’s NCAA tournament, otherwise known as March Madness.

While some claim baseball is America’s true “pastime,” others claim football has now taken over that role. I have yet to hear that March Madness deserves the title, but it does.

In a poll conducted of 75 random male Pacific Lutheran University students, 45 percent – 34 students – said they had filled out a bracket projecting the winners of each individual game in the tournament. This does not include the students who undoubtedly will watch the tournament but did not fill out a bracket.

More than 6.5 million people filled out brackets on ESPN.com alone and the tournament has been shown simultaneously on TNT, TBS, truTV and CBS.

Outside of the Super Bowl, there is not a single sporting event in America that garners the attention and participation the NCAA tournament gathers.

While some of the hoopla surrounding the NCAA tournament comes from fans supporting their favorite team or teams, the majority of the attention paid to March Madness, is just that: for the madness.

For the first time in NCAA history, two No. 15 seeds knocked off two No. 2seeds, on the same day nonetheless.

PLU women’s basketball guard senior Sara Backstrom said this is exactly why she loves the NCAA Tournament.

“The Cinderellas, the smaller underdog and the no-name teams finally get their chance at the big dance,” Backstrom said.

The no-name teams Backstrom is referring to are endless this season. In the second round, an unprecedented nine teams with double-digit seeds advanced.

The biggest upset thus far in the tournament came last Saturday when No. 15 Lehigh knocked off No. 2 Duke. To those who say they picked Lehigh, which has roughly 4,700 undergraduates compared to almost 3,500 at PLU, I say you are a liar. Either that, or you picked Lehigh by playing ‘eenie meenie minie mo.’

My mother, who I love to death but may not know the difference between a beach ball and a basketball, remarked at how nervous she was watching the closing seconds of the shocking upset as Lehigh hung on 75-70.

I would be willing to bet my position at the Mast she could not name either team that participated in the game today.

“I think the tournament is special because any team can win it,” said PLU basketball point guard senior James Conti. “No matter the size of the school, the conference or what their seed is, everyone has an equal chance at running the table.”

As a No. 4 seed in last year’s Northwest Conference Tournament, the Lutes with Conti at the helm nearly upset No. 1 Whitworth before falling 74-63 in the waning minutes.

PLU basketball player junior Cameron Schilling spoke to the significance of the upsets in this year’s tournament.

“The best part of the tournament in my mind is that you get a chance to watch teams that aren’t normally on the center stage,” Schilling said.

As a No. 15 seed, Norfolk state busted millions of brackets when the defeated No. 2 seed Missouri 86-84 Friday. Likewise, No. 12 seed VCU made people break out the red highlighter when they knocked off No. 5 seed Wichita State 62-59 March 15 in Portland.

Despite the inevitable fact there will be upsets in the tournament and they will ruin our brackets, we still root for the underdog.

As a spectator, it is hard not to applaud for a team like Lehigh when they knock off the perennial powerhouse Duke.

While I admittedly had Duke in the Elite 8 of my bracket, getting to watch the Lehigh team celebrate the victory of their lives makes it all worth it.

For those of you who fill out brackets, there is no better feeling in the world than getting to watch an upset and say you picked it correctly in your bracket.

My pride and joy pick of the tournament was selecting No. 12 University of South Florida over No. 5 Temple.

As the tournament enters its final rounds and the games become exponentially more significant, I wish you and your bracket good luck.

Don’t forget to shower.