I wrote about my lifelong relationship with the men's college basketball tournament last week. The first weekend of the tournament has always been one of my favorite weekends of the year. The upsets, the buzzer beaters, there's really nothing else like it in all of sports.
Wisconsin was never good enough to make the tournament during my time in Madison. The basketball program finally got its act together a few years after I graduated, and now you can pretty much bank on the Badgers being in the field of 64, I mean 65, I mean 68. The Badgers started this year's tournament in Tucson, so for the first time, I was able to cheer them on in person as they battled for a spot in the Sweet 16.
I wanted to bring the girls, but they had dancing commitments for St. Pat's. I talked a friend into going to Thursday's opening game, and instead of sitting in the nosebleed seats we paid for, we easily found empty seats near the court. A lot of the experts had Belmont upsetting Wisconsin, but the Badgers pulled away in the second half for a comfortable win.
I thought about bringing the girls to Saturday's game, but the tickets were just too expensive. My buddy didn't want to pony up another $80, so I went solo. I caught the end of the San Diego State/Temple game, a double overtime barnburner. After seeing how things worked on Thursday, I figured a good chunk of the San Diego State fans would clear out after their game. That's exactly what happened, and I wound up sitting in the front row, center court. It was like a basketball dream come true. The Badgers overcame a late six point deficit to win an extremely hard-fought game. They're moving on to the Sweet 16 in New Orleans, and the Final Four is a real possibility now.