Well, we are down to 8 teams left for the NCAA Championship. There are 347 teams that compete in Division 1 basketball. Aside from the other post-season tournaments, there are 8 teams left. What an amazing accomplishment for those teams. March Madness can be the greatest of times. But it really is also the worst of times. A March Sadness, if you will.
Each year, there are 16 teams given 1 through 4 seeds. If a #1 seed wins it all, that means that 15 of those 16 seeded teams will end the season with a loss. In fact, 67 of the 68 teams in the Big Dance end the season with a loss. All but one.
Of course, that happens in the NFL too. And the other major sports have playoff series that end. The difference with the pros is that those teams can, in theory, remain fully intact for the following year. There is always “next year.”
There is no next year for college Seniors. And if you are a very good college underclassman, there is no next year either. It just makes it so…. “final.” As a fan, it’s tough enough to know that this is the last time you will see that superstar. But it is even harder to say goodbye to that 4-year Senior who went from a clueless Freshman to a capable Senior. The guy who went from a boy to a man right in front of your eyes. And then he loses, sheds tears on TV, and is gone. Forever. At least in that jersey.
And it is never easy. Think being Georgetown is tough? Losing to a 15-seed is embarrassing and difficult-to-stomach. But what about Indiana–a #1 seed losing to ANYONE is tough. They were, in theory, “supposed to beat” Syracuse. And now it’s over. It is not limited to being a high seed. Pittsburgh and North Carolina State had low expectations and exited without much fanfare. It’s still ending the season with a loss.
Of course, some team will lose in the National Championship and consider THAT to be the worst-type of defeat. Syracuse fans still mourn the Keith Smart shot–even though they were the last team to taste the bitter pill of defeat in 1987. They may have lost on a shot with a few seconds left, but everyone else was at home. Syracuse had it better than all but one team. And yet there is only painful memories. So there is nothing great about losing late. Or early. Or in the middle. It’s all about losses. And yet the late losses sting the most. So as the teams continue to win, the emotions increase. The desire to win is as much to taste victory as it is to stave off the inevitable sadness that all but one fanbase will be forced to suffer through. What a paradox!
March Madness may be the greatest event in sports, but one cannot help but notice just how much sadness permeates the whole process. For this year’s crop of Elite 8, losing this weekend means no Final Four. It means walking off the court as the net-cutting ladder is coming on. The only consolation is that you did not have to endure the same thing on the final night of the season. Maybe the bowl season is not so bad after all?