What does the month of March mean to you? For most of us, time changes – sunset is later, and we can take advantage of this daylight for more outdoor exercise.
As the old saying goes, March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb … in other words, we start to dethaw from the winter. Spring officially starts this year on March 20.
All of the above is true, but if you are a college basketball fan, March means it is time to descend into the Madness. Is there a better sporting event during the year than the NCAA tournament?
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What Makes the NCAA Tournament So Great?
There are so many reasons to love March Madness – filling out your brackets, the Cinderella stories, the underdogs, and buzzer-beater, game-winning shots. Of course, this year feels even sweeter because the NCAA Tournament was cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Let’s start with the brackets. In 2018, CNBC published a study that included some amazing numbers. During the tournament that year, 70 million brackets were completed by people in office pools and/or online leagues. Why do so many people participate? There is something about this sporting event that even brings in non-sports fans. We think it is the unpredictability, the chaos, the randomness … I guess you could say, the “madness”. Look no further than the last two tournaments. In 2018, the University of Virginia lost to UMBC to became the first No. 1 seed to ever lose to a No. 16 seed – a truly shocking loss. The very next year, with basically the same core of players, Virginia won the national championship!
Regardless if you are making picks based on basketball knowledge, team colors, or which mascot would win in a fight, you have a chance to win your office pool.
The next thing that draws in viewers are the underdog stories – small schools knocking off the big ones like in the previous example. Who doesn’t love an underdog story? There have been some great ones in recent years. One of our favorites was in 2018 with Sister Jean, a 98-year-old nun, and the Loyola Ramblers from Chicago. Sister Jean and the Ramblers sounds like a bad action movie! This was an example of real life being better than any film.
The Ramblers made the NCAA tournament as an 11 seed – this typically means you aren’t going to last long. Sister Jean serves as the basketball team’s chaplain. Loyola made a remarkable run in the tournament, upsetting Miami and Tennessee on their way to the Final Four. With each win, Sister Jean became more popular across the country. She did national interviews talking about her spiritual support for the team, but also providing amazing basketball analysis on what the team would face in the next round. She was a true national phenomenon – her bobblehead doll would eventually sell for over $300 on eBay!
Only March Madness can thrust a team chaplain and a small basketball program from Chicago into the national spotlight! Who will steal the show in the 2021 tourney?
You Might Catch the Bug!
We also noticed that YMCA and other health club basketball courts start to get busy in April. The NCAA tournament can motivate every couch potato to dust off their sneakers, put some air in their ball, and head to their local court. We all have a little Rambler in us.
It is the perfect time to get out on the court and knock down some jumpers. Find a pickup game at a local park or your gym. Join a recreational league. Basketball is a great way to get exercise while competing against your friends. Achieve your hoop dreams and your exercise goals.
One piece of advice, especially if you haven’t played in a while, take it slow. The quickest way to derail your newfound basketball excitement is to struggle to get out of bed the next day. Spend 15 minutes stretching before hitting the court. Pay special attention to your lower back and upper leg muscles. Basketball involves dynamic movements and a lot of starts and stops. If you haven’t properly prepared your body, this can quickly turn into painful groin pulls or quad strains.
Stretch, hydrate, and call out “Next!”. Get out on the court. Drop some dimes, grab some rebounds, and score a few buckets. Ball is life.
Following your trip to the park or the YMCA, make sure you pay attention to your body. Where are you sore the next day? This is a good indicator of where you need to stretch more prior to your next game. When your body talks – listen.
Make sure you focus on your lower body. Basketball or any sport played on a firm surface can cause several injuries that can linger. Shin splints, ankle soreness, and foot blisters are all common following this type of exercise. The good news is that all of these ailments can be treated the same way – by making sure you have the appropriate footwear.
If you are playing basketball in running shoes, you are asking for trouble. You need to leverage shoes that are designed to support the unique movements required to play basketball. Make sure they properly fit your feet – too big or too small can both cause painful sores and blisters.
Are you using a quality pair of basketball shoes to play and that fit well, but you are still suffering from foot, ankle, and/or shin soreness following games? In this case, your feet may require some additional support. A custom insole that can be used in your existing shoes may be the answer and will provide you with the ability to play the game you love pain-free.
Embrace the Madness….
Fill out a bracket. Cheer on your favorite team or adopt an underdog. March 2020 had the wrong kind of madness, but 2021 is bringing back the basketball tournament that captivates the entire country. If you haven’t watched much this season, here are a few of the stories going into the tournament.
- Can Gonzaga complete the first undefeated season since Bobby Knight and Indiana did it in 1976? The Zags will enter the NCAA tourney without a loss.
- Will several college basketball giants miss the NCAA tournament? Duke, Kentucky, and Michigan State have all struggled this year – Duke hasn’t missed the tournament since 1995! Kentucky will almost definitely be out this year, while Michigan State will make it as Duke is on the bubble. They will need several wins in the ACC tourney to be selected.
- Virginia has been the defending champion for almost 23 months due to the cancellation of the 2020 tournament. How will its defense go this year? The Cavaliers have been up and down this season, but do they have another run in them?
- The NCAA tournament starts on March 18, but Selection Sunday is March 14. That date is when the brackets will be released, CBS will play “One Shining Moment”, and the Madness will start. Enjoy! Good luck with your picks and your next pickup game!