Is March Madness The Most Exciting Sporting Event?

Is there anything more exciting than March Madness? In my opinion, the NCAA men’s basketball tournament is the single greatest event in American sports. In terms of emotion, suspense, excitement and intrigue, I can’t think of another sporting event that compares. Where else can David actually beat Goliath?

This point was driven home over the weekend when No. 9 seeded Northern Iowa upset No. 1 seeded and tournament favorite Kansas, 69-67. The game will certainly go down as one of the greatest upsets in NCAA tournament history. Here was a Kansas team that had several future NBA first round players on its roster, was Big 12 regular season and conference tournament champions and was ranked #1 or near the top for most of the regular season. The game against Northern Iowa was supposed to be a cakewalk on the way to a berth in the Sweet 16. The only problem is that no one told Northern Iowa.

Northern Iowa, the Missouri Valley Conference Champion, frustrated the Jayhawks with a tenacious defense. But it was a three-pointer by Ali Farokhmanesh with 35.1 seconds remaining that will always be remembered. With the Jayhawks staging a furious rally and the Panthers leading by one and barely clinging to the lead, Northern Iowa broke the Jayhawks press and got the ball to Farokhmanesh, who hesitated for a second before calmly draining a three pointer that put Northern Iowa up by four and ultimately sealed the win. In beating Kansas, they became the first team to beat a No. 1 seed in the second round since UAB and Alabama did it to Kentucky and Stanford in 2004.

Each year there are a couple of Cinderella stories and this year is no exception with Cornell, Northern Iowa and St. Mary’s making it to the Sweet 16.

A couple of my favorite Cinderella stories…

  • George Mason, who reached the Final Four in 2006 as a No. 11 seed after defeating No. 1 seeded Connecticut in the regional finals, 86-84. George Mason became only the second team with a double-digit seed to advance to the Final Four. LSU, also a No. 11 seed, reached the Final Four in 1986.
  • North Carolina State ended the 1983 regular season with a 17-10 record and entered the NCAA Tournament as a No. 6 seed. They defeated the Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon-led University of Houston, 54-52, in one of the most thrilling finals in tournament history as Lorenzo Charles scored off a Derek Wittenburg airball as time expired.
  • In 1985, Villanova lost 10 games during the regular season and was a No. 8 seed in the Southeast Region. After disposing of fourth-ranked Memphis State in the semifinals, they defeated the defending champs and No. 1-ranked Georgetown, 66-64, by making 22 of 28 shots from the field and 22 of 27 free throws.

So which team will win this year’s tournament? As wild an opening weekend as we enjoyed, all of Sweet 16 teams have a chance. It might be a mistake to assume that one of the remaining No. 1 seeds – Kentucky, Duke or Syracuse – are going to win it. Stay tuned!

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