Before the storm that is March Madness, there is March Mayhem. Every conference except the Ivy League dukes it out in the form of Conference Tournaments. For many teams, they are playing their conference foes for the 2nd and 3rd time of the year. There is no love lost in these rivalries. The winner of each tourney receives an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament. If you are in a smaller conference, this is the only chance you got at dancing with the big boys.
These tournaments in my opinion are just as exciting, if not more exciting than the actual madness. The smaller conferences all get their championships put on ESPN. For many of these teams, this will be the only time they are on national television. It is the thrill of a lifetime for their players, who predominantly consist of guys who were not “good enough” to play at the marquee programs. This is really their chance in the limelight. Their chance to sign. And generally, these conference championship games do not disappoint. For the smaller schools, they realize the significance of these conference championship games to their school on both a local and national level. That is why these games are generally so close and hotly contested.
It is also the chance for America to see new heroes and find some new stud players that nobody is talking about. For instance, Anthony Johnson, Montana’s star, blew up for 42 points and hit the crucial game winner to send the Grizzlies dancing. Maybe Anthony Johnson will bounce on to some NBA team’s radars? See Stephon Curry who took Davidson to the tourney, became America’s fan favorite, and turned into a lottery pick. These guys at the smaller schools can play. They may have been overlooked by college scouts, but their team’s are playing deep into their conference tourneys for a reason. They may be a step slower, and an inch or two smaller, but they still got game.
Another beautiful part of March Mayhem. Watching the bubble teams from the power conferences play for their lives. For instance the Big East Tourney. You got teams like Seton Hall, Notre Dame, Marquette, and dare I say Cincinnati all playing for their tournament lives. In programs from the big time conferences, making the tourney is an afterthought and something that everyone expects. If they do not make the tourney, the year is looked at as a disappointment even if the team won 20 games and performed at a high level for the majority of the season.
Then the last aspect to March Mayhem. Watching teams that have been top 5 or top 10 all year and are looking to make sure they do not screw up their 1 or 2 seed. This is generally the time that these top teams sputter in that they are not as hungry as their opponents who are playing for their tournament lives. The hunger is lacking for many of these squads, but don’t worry, they will regain their swagger and intensity for the actual madness that is the NCAA tournament.
All I have to say is, bring on the Mayhem, and then bring on the Madness.
It’s totally awesome baby.
Stay tuned for the next edition of Sportskraze.