NCAA gives fans a thrill

What is it about the first two weekends of the NCAA tournament that captures the nation’s attention?

If not for the tournament, who would ever root for Nevada, Pacific or Manhattan?

Who would even know where Valparaiso is?

The month of March is a college basketball fan’s most exciting time of year.

If your favorite team fails to make it to the “big dance,” it can leave you feeling as unfulfilled as a December without Christmas.

When the brackets come out, every fan feels like an expert. That is, until noon on Thursday comes around and the madness begins.

This year it was Xavier and the Wolfpack of Nevada who caught the attention of the nation.

This country loves to see the underdog knock off the perennial contender.

It captures the spirit of Horatio Alger all in one weekend.

The month of March has made legends out of superstars and unknowns alike.

Even after 14 seasons in the NBA, one all-star game appearance and a strong showing in the Olympics, Christian Laettner will always be most known for his last-second shot to beat Kentucky in the 1992 NCAA tournament.

Who remembers that Pete Carril coached the Princeton Tigers, knocking off defending champion UCLA in the first round of the 1996 tournament behind an impressive display of back-door cuts and strong defense.

So it was Xavier and Nevada playing the role of David knocking off Goliath this year.

Who will play the role next year?

Will it be Monmouth knocking off Duke?

Maybe Winthrop taking down North Carolina.

The only thing you can be sure is that it will happen, and when it does, it will ruin thousands of people’s bracket predictions across the country.

You can’t predict the upsets, but you can (and will) cheer for those underdogs who are fighting to make a name for themselves, if only for a year.

This is why sports fans love the NCAA tournament.

Even if your team gets ousted from the tournament, you will still be excited to watch a game where a 13 seed is going to upset a four seed.

You will continually follow these “Cinderella stories,” because you begin to feel a certain loyalty towards the underdog teams.

I’ve rooted for Weber St., Delaware, Miami of Ohio, Southwest Missouri State, the College of Charleston, and so on and so on and so on.

Not because I was a fan of the team, but because I was a fan of the story that they were creating in front of a national audience.

I don’t remember any players from any of those teams. I do remember the drama that played out on the court, however.

It’s fun.

Unless it’s your team that’s getting upset.

Then it’s an entirely different feeling altogether.