Sunday, March 10, 2013

Why March is madness

I've just watched a game that defies belief.  And it, this game, is why March is madness and why people love sports.

My university, Northeastern, is the number one seed in the Colonial Athletic Association tournament being played this week in Richmond, Virginia.  The Colonial is one of those leagues that, typically--and this year will be typical--gets only one invitation to the big dance, the NCAA tournament.  Today, Northeastern, played George Mason University in the semi finals. The victor today would play in the finals tomorrow night.  The victor on Monday, gets to go to the tournament. The loser goes home.

Throughout this season, Northeastern has won games in remarkable last second fashion.  I attended the first game in November when we (note the pronoun) beat Boston University on a last second shot.  In February--and this is just an example not an aberration--we beat James Madison University by hitting a jump shot at the buzzer.

In the first half against George Mason this afternoon, to say we were cold is to be kind and inaccurate.  Beyond cold. We did not score a point (not one) until over nine minutes had expired. At one juncture with just a few minutes left in the first half we were losing by a football score, 31-7.  Thirty one to seven?  A moment earlier the announcer quipped that we were on pace to score ten points in the game.

Northeastern scored the last twelve points in the first half to go into the locker room 31-19.  A twelve point deficit is not impossible to overcome, but would be daunting unless you were down by three touchdowns and a field goal just moments before.

In the second half we started hitting three point shots and on a number of occasions tied the game and even went up by one a few times. But George Mason kept keeping up and with about two minutes to play led 67-61.

What happened next is storybook.  Northeastern scored the last eight points including a driving layup with three seconds remaining in the game.  Certain to be losers in the first half, the victors celebrated at the end as if it had won the entire March Madness tournament.

This was a game which makes people love March. George Mason may not be feeling similarly right now, but college basketball aficionados know why this makes March mad.  Nobody outside of Nevada won a dime on this game.  The joy was because Northeastern came back from a first half in which they were down by 24 points and could not throw a bar of soap into a bathtub.

During the season I witnessed so many last second comebacks that I wondered if in the tournament we would have to succumb to the law of averages. Not yet.

Truly thrilling.

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