The madness is real, dude

I fill out a bracket for the NCAA tournament every year in hopes that my ‘extensive’ sports acumen will shine through. However, every year by Sunday night, I come back to the harsh realization that the NCAA tournament doesn’t give a you-know-what about me or my pride.
The smoldering remains of by bracket sure don’t resemble much of anything, after losing two final four teams, including my national champion pick of North Carolina.
My other final four picks of Kentucky and Villanova remain alive while the other pick, Michigan State, will also watch the rest of the tournament from home like myself.
In fact, I only correctly picked seven of the sweet 16 teams that remain.
However, the disdain of my recently shredded bracket is replaced by the heightened sense of excitement watching the lower level teams take down the giant goliaths of the sport.
Friday night, for example. I didn’t have any clue who Virginia was playing in the first round, let alone believing that team had a snowball’s chance in winning that game.
UMBC (University of Maryland Baltimore County) was quickly put on the college basketball map by becoming the first 16 seed to take down a number one seed.
Not just a number one seed, but the overall number one seed and argued by some as the best team in the country. This was, in essence, the No. 1 team losing to No. 64.
Dog lovers like my wife-to-be rallied together as the newest members of Retriever Nation while the UMBC Retrievers did the impossible.
I wasn’t ever 100 percent sure if I’d ever see a 16 seed take down a 1 seed. If I did, I was sure the outcome would have been the 16 seeded team winning on some sort of fluky, last-second buzzer-beater sort of sequence.
That’s not what this was. UMBC kicked Virginia’s teeth in. The good boys of UMBC became America’s team over the course of two hours.
The UMBC athletics Twitter account went from 5,000-some followers pregame to over 110,000 at last check Monday morning. Which, by the way, if you didn’t see those tweets over the weekend, they’re worth looking up. Hilarious.
The UMBC bookstore’s online merchandise sales surpassed the yearly sales in ONE day. My fiance is begging for one of these shirts. Dogs, man.
Heck, the announcers before the UMBC-Kansas State second round game noted that the Retreiver players had to wash clothes Saturday because they only packed for one night. Crazy stuff.
The exposure this team and UMBC received as a whole can’t be understated. Winning that game was a whole mess of free recruitment. Expect a jump in incoming freshmen next year.
That goes for all the Cinderella teams making splashes, like Loyola-Chicago, who has stolen the hearts of Chigagoans everywhere with 98-year-old Sister Jean leading the charge, even getting a shoutout from Barack Obama on Twitter.
My bracket is destroyed, my non college basketball fan fiance has a better bracket than me and we all witnessed history over the weekend.
The madness is real, and that’s why we love it.

RICHARD RHODEN can be reached at sports@hamilton.net.

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