“Beware the Ides of March,” said a soothsayer to Roman ruler Julius Caesar in 44 B.C.E.. But Caesar failed to heed the warning, and wound up dead.
Nor has humanity learned from his mistake. March is frequently a disastrous month for the confident and powerful in the NCAA college basketball tournament.
In this context, we can revel in the downfall of favorites. Improbable upsets are what make the upcoming weekend the greatest four days of the year.
Colleges you’ve never heard of become instant conversation topics. Just mention Valparaiso, and any half-educated sports fan will immediately reply, “Bryce Drew.” Drew nailed a three-pointer at the buzzer in 1998 to give the no. 13 Crusaders a shocking victory over no. 4 Mississippi. Valpo made it to the Sweet 16, and Drew’s name has become virtually synonymous with an otherwise unheard-of university.
Then there’s Weber State, a Big Sky school in Ogden, Utah. A huge performance by Harold Arceneaux—yes, that Harold Arceneaux—led the no. 14 Wildcats to an amazing 76-74 win over no. 3 North Carolina in 1999. “The Show,” as he was called, scored 36 points to stun the Tar Heels.
And who could forget no. 13 Princeton’s 43-41 upset win over no. 4 UCLA in 1996? Hopefully you had the under on that one, and hopefully BC is taking notice The Eagles won their first 20 games but finished 4-4, and are paired against Penn, another dangerous no. 13 seed from the Ivies. In December, BC needed double overtime to edge a Yale squad that finished 11-16.
The memorable moments in the later rounds are endless. One of the sport’s defining plays has to be Christian Laettner’s 17-footer at the buzzer in the 1992 East Regional Final to give Duke a 104-103 overtime victory over Kentucky. The three-quarter court pass and turnaround jumper have doubtless been imitated millions of times in backyards and empty gyms across America over the last decade.
Unfortunately, Laettner’s career peaked at age 22, when he won a gold medal with the Dream Team in Barcelona after back-to-back titles at Duke. The no. 3 pick of the 1992 NBA Draft has averaged 12.9 points per game for his career and is currently playing for his fifth franchise. He has been blessed to play with dozens of different teammates, including 7-foot-4 center Priest Lauderdale on the Hawks and the unforgettable God Shammgod with the Wizards. Together, the three make a Holy Trinity that Jesus could only dream about.
Holy Cross won’t be dancing this year, having been upset by Bucknell in the Patriot League championship. But the Crusaders are fortunate enough to do battle with Notre Dame tonight in the first round of the NIT, a contest that will finally prove where God’s loyalties really lie.
Meanwhile, fans nationwide are left staring at a gloriously blank bracket. Anything can happen—just make sure you’re there to witness it. Get your priorities straight. We have nine months of classes each year, but the Big Dance goes by fast. Don’t let school get in the way of an amazing few weeks.
Have fun with the bracketology. Pick lots of upsets, and plant yourself in front of the television. If you’re really die-hard, pay $20 online and don’t miss a single game.
I warn you: This is a time of year that requires sacrifices. Shun classes, work, and significant—or insignificant—others, and maximize the college hoops experience.
If you’re worried about your team suffering a Caesarian meltdown, pull out the New Testament for some prayers.
Or better yet, just read the Sparknotes.
Make these sacrifices, and the next three weeks will be heavenly. Even if the Duke Blue Devils pull it out in the end.
—Staff writer Stewart H. Hauser can be reached at email@example.com. His column appears on alternate Tuesdays.