Hulne: Sorting out the Madness of March

Published 4:36 pm Thursday, March 28, 2024

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The older you get, the more traditions change.

One of my favorite memories growing up was watching the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. When I found out that they play 32 games in two days – with 12 hours of basketball on each day to get the dance started, I was instantly drawn in.

I fondly recall Bryce Drew giving Valparaiso the upset over Ole Miss in 1998, UCLA’s Tyus Edney going the distance for a coast-to-coast buzzer beater in 1995 and more recently, I’m still fond of Bronson Koenig giving my Badgers a buzzer beating win over Xavier with one of the best shots you’ll ever see back in 2016.

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We all have those magic memories and they’ll never go away.

But the tournament doesn’t have the same luster it once did. Now we have Caleb Love, who played in a Final Four with North Carolina, and Keshad Johnson, who played in a Final Four with San Diego State, both playing together at Arizona. Those are just a couple of players who have changed uniforms in the middle of their college careers.

There is no doubt that NIL money has had a giant impact on college sports and nowhere is it more common than college basketball, where players are looking for the best deal and best fit for themselves.

Gone are the days of John Wallace riding it out with Syracuse for four years before making it to the Final Four as his final act in 1996. Things are just different now.

As hard as it is to keep up with the roster changes, it’s also getting tougher to watch the games. In the first two days of the tournament, I was a little blown away by how often refs use the challenge system. I kid you not, I saw one play where a ref was making the challenge signal before he even made a call. And this was during live play!

Replays are helpful when done rarely and at important times, but the purpose is lost when we are stopping the game to look at tape every time two players bump into each other.

I could gripe a little more about the 100 or so angry messages UNC star Armando Bacot received from gamblers after not hitting his ‘over’ during one of his recent games, but I’d like to remain positive.

I still love March Madness and I’m certain some of these problems will be addressed in the future. For now, I’m just going to sit back and enjoy the games.

Maybe I’ll remember some of the finishes 10 years from now.