By Quinn McDowell, www.aretehoops.com
Conference tournaments, the NIT, and NCAA March Madness stand looming large with promise for college basketball teams across the country. March signals the culmination of months of preparation with the hope of making a big splash at the end of the year.
The coaching cliche holds true that, ‘we want to be playing our best ball at the end of the year’. March is an exciting time to be a college basketball player, and here’s why.
February is one of the most difficult times of the season and is often referred to as the “Dog Days” of the college schedule. In January, many students are still on Christmas break so campus is quiet and the crowds at home games can dwindle. In February, the heart of the conference schedule has kicked in and games have picked up in intensity and importance. That also means more road games, which means long bus rides and 3am arrivals.
As March rolls around, you start to emerge from the darkness. The sun starts to peek out from behind winter clouds, birds start chirping, and the excitement of post-season play puts a new energy into the entire program. You have escaped from the dog days with a new outlook and hope for what the end of the season might bring.
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It’s exciting – and nerve-wracking – to think that all of your hard work and expectations can be realized or destroyed in a few short games at the end of the season. I was fortunate to play in four conference tournaments, one conference championship, and one NIT game at North Carolina. Our school did not have a rich history of playing in postseason competition, so the excitement generated around our humble accomplishments was fun to be a part of. A shot to make a post-season tournament made all of the early morning workouts, weight sessions, and conditioning worth the sacrifice. These are the times you live for as a college athlete.
Although I never personally got the chance to play in the big dance, I can attest to the power this single sporting event has on the psyche of hoopheads everywhere. The single reason why the tournament is so popular is because it represents the single most powerful human emotion: hope.
Every team enters the tournament with the hope of accomplishing something spectacular. Every player hopes to become the next great tournament sensation. Every fan hopes their team will make the next improbable run to the Final Four. March Madness is more than a tournament, it is a purveyor of hope, and hope is a beautiful thing.
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