By: Eric Thomas
Thursday at the Palace of Auburn Hills is rare. March Madness itself is an annual event, but it’s especially rare that two of the teams involved are playing what amounts to a home game.
Many of us have fingers crossed that this tournament could be a classic. Last year was boring; Kentucky was so far above every team that it was inevitable. The only time a final game was more dominant was in 2009, when MSU helped bury the already depressed town of Detroit (or at least that was the narrative said by everyone everywhere constantly). Please, oh please, don’t let it be like 2008 when all chalk went to the Final Four.
Some have criticized this year’s bracket, citing the lack of a favorite or “stars.” B1G fans might take issue with such statements, citing stars Trey Burke and Oladipo. Maybe some people are still griping about the lack of future NBA Stars and that argument has to die. You might not see someone at the level of Michael or Alcindor, but buzzer beaters and impossible upsets are exciting regardless of the talent level.
There isn’t anything better than the tourney and it doesn’t even matter if you’re a basketball fan. You feel a bit like the main character in A Clockwork Orange, only in a positive way. You sit on the couch, surrounded by wrappers and empties, a halo of grease on the carpet from various snacks and meals. Your thumbs are so coiled with nervous energy you unintentionally flip past your desired channel, cursing your digital services’ tendency to load a screen a nanosecond longer when you flip back. You press palmfuls of carbs into your face and fill your vision with steals, rebounds, threes at the buzzer and fast breaks.
Gus Johnson doesn’t call games anymore. This helps because you might have a heart attack by Saturday.
March Madness shows how awful the BCS games are. College football, a far more bankable product, is hampered yearly by the worst playoff system in all of sports. No small schools have a prayer and the final game is either between two SEC teams or a blowout. The arguments against a college football playoff are valid, plastic and melt into the wallpaper. College football is lucrative, exciting and over after November. College basketball is yawned at by the collective country for most months, then in March your office fills with brackets and opinions on how to win. Sales offices are curiously empty on the Thursday kick off; most of the year a mention of college basketball produces curious and confused stares normally associated with showing a magic trick to your dog.
So just strap in, don’t worry about the parity and if you have the cash head down to the Palace. It’s the best show of the year in any sport, exciting regardless of context. It’s still good even though spring is here late, all the more reason to load up on the bacon cheese dip and barricade yourself in your house. Take heart in the fact that the two local teams have a home game, kick your feet up, and get lost in the madness.