By Alvin Halimwidjaya
Spring break is one of the best times of the year for many reasons. Some people are just looking for a break after a week of stressful midterms; others prepare to live out their dreams by partying on South Beach, Miami for three days straight.
My favorite part of spring break is settling down on the couch and watching the entire Round of 64 in March Madness.
The NCAA tournament is one of the most anticipated sporting events of the year. A multitude of people crowd around their TV sets, while student sections and alumni show up in full force to root for their teams in neutral locations. Every year, you can find the inevitable powerhouses that bulldoze their way to the Final Four.
Kentucky’s vaunted recruits are always a threat to make a deep run, while the immortal Coach K has led Duke to an increasingly obnoxious level of success.
However, that’s old news; haters are constantly looking to attack blue-blood programs and teams with talented freshmen who are going to run to the NBA the next year. We’re tired of the same old schtick.
This year, the upsets were few and far between in the first round; however, chaos ensued as the field got smaller. From predictable surprises like Michigan making a run and Wisconsin toppling Villanova to a baffling string of wins by West Virginia and South Carolina, brackets all across the country succumbed to the Madness.
Cinderella teams have their charm to them, and more and more people are starting to find upsets and underdog teams the most exciting part of March Madness. More and more games favor the lower-seeded team in bets and predictions; regardless, no matter what my bracket says, I’m always going to be cheering for the 16-seed to beat the 1-seed.
I chose Vanderbilt to win its first-round matchup, but I have to feel good for the Northwestern team who toppled Vandy for their first tournament win in school history. When Paul Jesperson knocked down a halfcourt buzzer-beating game-winner to propel No. 11 Northern Iowa past No. 6 Texas last year, I jumped out of my chair so fast I landed wrong, rolling my ankle.
My point is, while you may expect a college powerhouse to decimate a mid-major team, it’s significantly more satisfying to root for the little guy.
There are definitely going to be people making the point that more successful and larger universities generate more income, and they are correct. However, let me posit this conjecture: that’s not fun.
Why would you want the same, boring old narrative repeating itself every year? That’s like cheering for Sebulba at the Boonta Eve Classic Podrace. That’s like wanting Jafar to take over Agrabah. That’s like rooting for Sharpay and Ryan during callbacks.
The reason that March Madness is a single-elimination tournament, instead of a seven-game series like the NBA playoffs, is that anything can happen in a single game.
In a playoff series, the better team will have a much better chance of winning; developing a gameplan over the course of several games allows teams to counter against unexpected tactics.
However, a lower seed can have a hot shooting night, just as a better team can collapse in a single half.
The fact that March Madness is structured for upsets only attests to the magic that an underdog can create in the college basketball world.
At the end of the day, upsets are all about the allure of endless possibilities. UNC won this year’s NCAA tournament, as one of the best teams in the country for the past few years avenged their finals loss the previous year. That’s what happens the majority of the time.
However, fans relate to college students making an unprecedented run and living their best lives. In the heat of the moment, it’s always hard to ignore an underdog’s charm. When UConn fell to Mississippi State after 111 straight wins, everyone went crazy.
I don’t think I’ve seen a single tweet or article commiserating with the Huskies, or lauding them for their accomplishment, and that’s completely fine. UConn is still the best team in women’s basketball, and it’ll probably rattle off another unbelievable win streak, but that’s not the point. The beauty of the underdog is the satisfaction and joy you can see after doing the impossible, whether it’s David taking down Goliath, Wichita State taking down Gonzaga in 2013 or Rabbit taking down Papa Dog, (a.k.a Clarence) in the rap battle of the century.
You can be Stephen Curry or Jimmer Fredette; when a team makes a Cinderella run in March, everyone’s in on the madness.