It's been a while since the old interwebs have called my name, but today, I feel I must write.
What has happened to March Madness? Why do I no longer care? Why is it that when bracket time comes around it is merely an afterthought, and the games don't even excite me any more?
Recently, ESPN premiered their 31st documentary of the 30 on 30 series which featured the Fab 5 of Michigan. Aside from some of the ridiculously race driven commentary that was associated with the show, it made me miss what college basketball once was. Honestly, what was not to love?
I can still vividly remember when I gained what my brother calls basketball "consciousness." It's the exact moment when you realize what's going on in the world around you. It's when you finally understand what something really means. I was in a hotel room in Orlando watching Duke play Kentucky in the 1992 NCAA Tournament. The game was incredible, and in true March Madness fashion ended with a remarkable shot by Christian Laettner that put Duke on top. That was it. I was hooked.
There could not have been a better time to have realized what the game of basketball would soon mean in my life. As a Hog fan, there was no better time to be in love with the game. For the Razorbacks, the goal wasn't to make the NCAA Tournament, the goal was to win the thing. A season without a Final Four meant nothing. A season without a banner was a failure.
But the Hogs would not have been as special as they were had the landscape of college basketball not been so phenomenal. The Fab 5 defined Michigan's dominance. Duke's 4 Final Fours in a row will likely NEVER be matched. Larry Johnson at UNLV, fantastic. Corliss Williamson, Scotty Thurman, Dwight Stewart, Cory Beck, Al Dillard... need I say more? Those were the days that defined college basketball. Those were the days I fear we have left far behind.
Without getting into the complete landscape of everything that has changed (as I obviously don't have the answers), I'll just say that it's not as good as it used to be. We don't get to know teams anymore. Rather, we get to know players. Coaches don't build programs, they influence recruiting classes. And the tournament simply isn't the "One Shining Moment" that it once was. For two teams to win their conferences to not even make it to The Big Dance is a disgrace by any definition.
For the next two weeks college basketball will hold center court in the ESPN landscape. There will be some upsets, and some breakout players. I hope there is a Cinderella team that makes a deep run, but I'm not holding my breath. Then, just as quickly as the tournament started, it will all be over.
As I filled out my bracket this year, I couldn't help but think about the teams that made me love the sport, and I couldn't help but remember what once was.
Thank you 1994. You are sorely missed.
- Crown Pub