By Krista Pirtle
March Madness. Get your pencils ready to fill out a bracket, or 17, read up Sports Illustrated and watch countless hours of Sportscenter to have a better chance of winning the pool … of Oreos … that you aren’t betting on.
You’re practicing probability for Business Calculus, not gambling, because this is Baylor.
This is college basketball at its finest as lower-ranked teams upset top seeds to advance deeper into the tournament.
Teams down by two points with 10 seconds to play find their best shooter and watch as the ball rolls off his or her fingertips, arching towards the basket milliseconds before the final buzzer sounds.
Losses are not merely a number to the right of a hyphen for a team’s record; they are season ending.
There is no do-over.
It is a battle to the “death” on the hardwood all month long.
Sadly, there are some people who aren’t drawn to this display of athleticism, hustle, heart and talent. Fairy tales with happy endings, like the following, are more appealing.
Each year in the tournament there is one team that does not receive as much credit for its abilities throughout the regular season. Sure, that team has decent players and a great work ethic, but it does not compare to the top-tier programs in the nation. It is stuck in a constant cycle of complacency, and an escape route cannot be found.
On a Sunday in March, the king of the sports world, ESPN, has a show that announces invitations to the NCAA tournament. The team waits anxiously as the top tier schools are announced. The players begin to think it unlikely that an invitation will be extended to their overlooked team. Little did they know that an important win in its season had begun to turn the team’s drab surroundings into exquisite circumstances. At last, ESPN announces a bid to the team for the Dance.
While other teams get brand new uniforms from Nike and Adidas that look like they are trying to one up the other, this team uses an extra scoop of bleach on the home uniforms and buys a new pair of shoelaces. The team boards its mode of transportation and heads out for the first three rounds of play.
Standing in its way are three of the top teams in their region of the bracket. After hard-fought rebounds and sneaky back cuts against an overaggressive man defense, the team makes it past the first stage of teams whose talent was always announced in the media but never proved on the hardwood.
The next two teams faced are much tougher than the first stage ever was. Doubt enters the mind of the team entering the third-round game, but a game-winning shot silences it. At long last the team wins out the second round against its feisty opponents that didn’t want their season to end just yet. A ticket to the Final Four, the elite level of the tournament, has been punched for the team.
Emotions of bewilderment combine with determination to send the lowly team to play the two largest games of its life. The semi-final round is against a team that has been known nationally for decades and is expected to stomp this no-name team that should never have made it to the Dance in the first place. Despite the opposing team’s effort to exterminate the lesser team, it changes its defensive scheme to a full-court press that completely alters the tempo of the game. Costly turnovers committed by the higher-ranked team provide transition layups for the bottom tier team who pulls away.
At last, this no-name team has caught the attention of the nation as it faces yet another elite team. Throughout 30 of the 40 minutes it is apparent that the title can go either way, but a last-minute three-pointer brings victory to the underdog. An overlooked, underappreciated team fought the odds to bring home the championship.
Krista Pirtle is a junior journalism major from Olney and is a sports writer for the Lariat.