Monday Morning Point Guard

By Zach CohnCreated: 03.26.2012 - 8:47 am mtMile High Hoops

What’s your favorite month of the year?

Depending on what tickles your fancy in life, answers will vary. For those who have an affinity for chlorophyll and seasonal color change, September is the winner. For ski bums and powder hounds, January is a nice choice.  Fans of sunburns and fireworks have a soft -spot for July.  Romantics and chocolate lovers have a passion for February. People who like huge parties where you dress up in costumes (i.e. Oktoberfest and Halloween), prefer October.

But if you are a true fan of basketball, there is no debate. Your favorite month has to be March. There is no doubt about it. For basketball junkies, March is a hoop lovers dream. March Madness is aptly named, because there is an insane amount of basketball played. The month is packed with basketball games from beginning to end, from the high school ranks all the way to the NBA.

If March Madness is a three-course meal, the high school state championships are the appetizer, the NCAA Tournament is the main course, and the NBA playoff push is the dessert.

Appetizer – High School Hoops

Across America in the month of March, high school state champions are crowned in the sport of basketball. The state basketball championships in Colorado this year were characterized by an outstanding tournament, capped by a thrilling finish at the highest classification. In the 5A boys state title game, the Chaparral Wolverines won their first ever state title in overtime, thanks to an acrobatic tip-in at the buzzer.  How is that for a drama to finish the season? A buzzer beater to win the state title? It literally doesn’t get any better than that. I was covering the game and had chills coarse through my body when I saw the tip-in go through.  

And that was just one play, in one game, in one state, in one classification Who knows what kind of drama unfolded in the hundreds of championship games across the country? Just imagining the mind-numbing madness is magical.

Main Course – The NCAA Tournament

It’s impossible for someone to watch every high school tournament in America, but the entire country always watches the annual colossal conclusion to the collegiate campaign. CBS knew what they were doing when they extended their television contract with the NCAA’s, because the NCAA Tournament is the coolest sports tournament of all-time. Sixty-eight teams make the field, but there can only be one champion. How cool is that? The one team that can win 6 games over a three-week span wins all the spoils. Every game is a win or go home situation.  There is no goofy bowl system. There is no 7 game series. It is 6 pressure-packed rounds that keep a nation captivated for the entire month of March. Millions of people across the country fill out brackets, assume rooting alliances with random teams, and end up cringing as they watch their predictions blow up in their face.

The first two days of the tournament should be a national holiday in my personal opinion. It’s literally non-stop basketball all day long, from sunrise to sunset. There are sixteen games each day, perfectly overlapped to keep viewers intrigued, simultaneously unraveling drama at a fever pitch. Most of the bracket-busting upsets occur in the first round. Like when the 11th seeded Colorado Buffaloes knocked off the 6th seeded UNLV Running Rebels this year, a landmark win for basketball in the state of Colorado.

Or how about two #2 seeds going down in the same two-hour span this year to two #15 seeds? Lehigh shocked the world when they bounced the mighty Duke Blue Devils. And Norfolk State was this year’s Cinderella story, after they beat the Missouri Tigers. It’s always nice to see David beat Goliath. Only 5,400 students attend Norfolk State, while 34,000 attend Missouri.

As the tournament goes on, the crème generally seems to rise to the top. And when the tournament reaches the Sweet 16, Elite 8 and Final 4, the match-ups just get spicier and spicier. Just take a snapshot of some of the games in this year’s later rounds. North Carolina versus Kansas will have any college hoops fan drooling, and they faced off yesterday in the Elite 8. Two storied programs went toe to toe, with North Carolina’s coach Roy William’s coaching against his former team. How about the looming match-up of Kentucky versus Louisville? Not only do both teams hail from the same state, but the coach match-up of Rick Pitino versus John Calipari is a battle of coaching legends.

With the final four right around the corner, there are only 3 games left. Ironically, the tournament wraps up in the first week April, but the meat and potatoes of this tournament are in March; the main reason this month is so unbelievably maddening.

Dessert – NBA Playoff Push

Let’s be real. The National Basketball Association plays second fiddle in March to college hoops. Like most three-course meals, the main course is usually better than dessert.  But dessert is still sometimes quite delicious, and just like a brownie sundae drizzled with chocolate sauce, the NBA does still deliver some appetizing entertainment.

The NBA playoffs don’t begin until late April but the playoff picture begins to come into focus in March, with the competitive teams jostling for playoff positioning. The Denver Nuggets find themselves in a dogfight this March, currently sitting in 9th place, scrapping for their playoff lives.

Even though the excitement level is not as high as the high school and college tournaments, the NBA still is the highest level of play in the world, with prolific individual performances occurring at a regular rate. The Timberwolves Kevin Love scored 30 points and grabbed 21 rebounds on March 25th. Rajon Rondo had a Magic Johnson-esque triple double of 18 points, 20 assists, and 17 rebounds on March 4th. Speaking of a staggering performance from an Eastern Conference point guard, the Net’s Deron Williams dropped 57 points on the same day.

As March comes to a close this year, it’s almost impossible to fathom the amount of basketball that is actually played. March is a truly awesome month that and keeps me coming back for more. I already can’t wait until next year, when the madness will begin once again, satisfying the appetite of hoops fans everywhere.

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