The men's college basketball tournament officially gets under way tonight, although I am not a fan of these play-in games. My Badgers come limping into the tournament, but they're playing here in Tucson, so I feel like I should find a way to be at the game. The girls are actually really excited to go, but like most sporting events these days, it's not cheap. With multiple games being played at one sight, it's a little more complicated than just buying tickets for the one game your team is guaranteed to play, so we'll see how it all works out.
The tournament has always been my favorite sporting event of the year. So many great memories, where do you even start. I remember One Shining Moment before it was a big deal. My earliest memory is Al McGuire and Marquette winning the title in '77. My dad went to Marquette, so that was our team. A few years later some of the Marquette players came to my school, St. Thomas More, for a little basketball clinic, and I remember being in awe. When Marquette fell on hard times, I just kind of followed the game in general, usually pulling for the underdogs.
I remember losing my mind, like everyone else of course, when Lorenzo Charles snatched that ball out of midair and slammed it home. I loved Rollie and Nova taking down mighty Georgetown. Keith Smart's jumper in '87 was a highlight of my senior year. I vividly remember the collective shock in my dorm room when Chris Webber called the infamous timeout that robbed the Fab Five of their legacy. Meg and I were in Tucson visiting friends in 1997 when Arizona won the title, and the air was literally electric with victory. Last year the Butler Bulldogs gave basketball purists everywhere a reason to dust off their copies of Hoosiers.
Unfortunately, the Badgers never made the tournament when I was a student, that would have been amazing. My buddies and I followed Tony Bennett and UWGB during our college years; their victory over Jason Kidd and Cal was huge for the state. The Badgers finally became a factor in the Dick Bennett era. It wasn't always pretty, but they won, and if it wasn't for Michigan State, we probably would have won the national championship in 2000. Bo Ryan has turned UW into a perennial power on the hardwood, but in my mind, the Badgers have often underachieved in the tournament. They had a nice Elite 8 run a few years back, losing a tough one to eventual champ, North Carolina, but other than that, too many loses to lower seeds.
Whatever happens this year, whether I see it live or in a sports bar, whether the Badgers continue to underachieve or somehow find a way to make a run, doesn't matter. The girls are budding basketball fans, so watching the tournament with them will add another dimension to this already great time of year.
How about you? Any fond tournament memories?