UNC won the game, so I jumped over a bonfire… twice. For one night of my life, that was not a non sequitur.
UNC’s victory was not a surprise. Though we were playing this week’s “Team of Destiny” (whatever that could possibly mean), who supposedly had the entire depressed state of Michigan behind them (as if that was possible, or even mattered), it would have been a significant upset had we lost. Nor was our victory very exciting (from a purely objective standpoint). It was essentially just a matter of time halfway through the first half. Had this been a first or second round game, they would have probably switch to another game.
And this was the story of our entire tournament run. None of our victories were the least bit surprising or very riveting. Our only really contested game was against LSU, whom we ended up beating by 14. We didn’t win a game by less than a dozen, though we played three teams that were arguably in the top ten nationwide.
But, arguing that this UNC team was special is like arguing that ice cream is delicious. As UNC students, our victory was enough to make the whole tournament a compelling experience. But, there was a sense among some in the sports world beyond the confines of Chapel Hill that this year’s tournament was somehow disappointing. There were even a vocal handful of pundits who went so far as declaring that the 2009 March Madness was boring.
Now, this year did lack a Davidson or George Mason, but it was gripping nonetheless. March Madness 2009 was replete with highlight-reel glutting game-winning shots. Siena’s come-from-behind-double-overtime first round win over Ohio St. was almost painfully epic. Ronald Moore’s game-saving three pointer at the end of the first OT and his game-winning three at the end of the second should have been enough to justify the first weekend to its detractors. Paired with Trevon Hughes’ game-winning shot to cap a thrilling upset for 12-seed Wisconson over Florida St. (both games finished within minutes of each other), they made the second night of action just about as exciting as any night of sports.
Some despaired over the perceived lack of upsets. Sure, the Sweet Sixteen featured only two teams that had to defeat higher-seeded opponents. However, this was also a year in which 10 seeds had a better record than 5 seeds. The 13 seeded Cleveland St. came out of absolute obscurity to crush Wake Forest, whom many (including me) had in the Final Four, setting up a 12-13 game against Arizona. However, these Cinderellas exited early enough to leave room for rounds of marquee matchups, such as the memorable game between Pittsburgh and Villanove. In short, this year’s tournament struck the delicate balance between upsets and quality contests between storied programs.
… all of that, and duke was beaten early and handily. A wise man once said that March Madness is so awesome that you wish it were happening while it is happening. This year was no different.