March Madness Has Arrived
The 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball season has been riveting to say the least. We've seen everything from conference facelifts, to freshman phenoms, and even mid-major dominance. Although the final chapter is still to be written, this season will certainly be one to remember, and perhaps one that marks a turning point in collegiate basketball.
Before the season had yet to even begin, folks were buzzing about the disbandment of the old Big East Conference. Teams like Syracuse, Louisville, and UConn, who had each won a title in the past 10 years, were no longer members of this historically successful conference. While Louisville and UConn remain in a conference limbo of sorts, Syracuse hopped over to the ACC to join the likes of perennially dominant teams, Duke and North Carolina.
What do Duke, Syracuse, Kansas and Arizona all have in common? In addition to having successful seasons, they are all riding the backs of talented freshman. Duke's Jabari Parker, Cuse's Tyler Ennis, Kansas's Andrew Wiggins, and Arizona's Aaron Gordon are all-but-guaranteed lottery picks this upcoming NBA draft. While the one-and-done crowd is quickly becoming a fixture in NCAA, the most exciting part is watching how these kids handle the spotlight of March Madness.
Despite failing to obtain the number 1 ranking for any amount of time this season, Wichita State did not fail when it came to their on-court performance. The team did what no other team in NCAA history has done: go 31-0 in the regular season. While their strength-of-schedule has been debated ad nauseam, the team did make the Final Four last year, so no one should be surprised to see a repeat performance this March. The question is, can a mid-major finally cut down the nets?
There is plenty to look forward to this March, for all basketball lovers. And although the tournament is still a few weeks away (the best place to watch is through the ESPN Full Court Package from Direct Television), the NCAA has made a few announcements to give the super-fans something to discuss in the mean time. One is the recent announcement of the Division III tournament's field of 62, which, although the stakes (and arenas) are smaller, the hoops are no less exciting. Another recent announcement is the new NCAA hand-checking rules, which allow more ball-handling freedom for the offensive player. It should be interesting to see how this affects play in an already tense tournament atmosphere.
Regardless of the circumstances of each particular season, college tournament basketball is first-class entertainment filled with genuine sincerity and determination. There's no wonder why the ratings are so high or that March Madness sports memorabilia is always a best-seller (don’t forget to check out all our great selection of autographed balls). With all the recent twists and turns in this NCAA season, the 2014 tournament seems destined to be a classic!