This college basketball season has been a top-class buffet of upsets, crazy comebacks and buzzer-beaters. A veritable cornucopia of at-the-horn utopia, there's been enough to satiate even the hugest hoops hunger. But no matter how good the appetizers and entrees have been, discerning fans know that they need to save some room on the plate, as the best stuff always waits at the dessert table.
The calendar has turned to March, and now our basketball glands are salivating as we anxiously wait to look over the offerings. This season's NCAA tournament, potentially as wide-open and unpredictable as any in recent memory, could be a proper punctuation to such a pulsating season, but there will be a lot of great stuff nationwide to nibble on before March 17, as well.
Last week, to get the pulse of some of the nation's most passionate college hoops fans, I asked my Twitter followers what they were looking forward to and received some excellent answers. A few are included below in the 68 reasons why we love college basketball in March (and April!), carrying you from today until the final horn sounds in Atlanta. Get ready to dig in!
1. Dick Vitale yelling "They're in, baby!!" after a team that's not at all guaranteed to be in the field of 68 wins a game.
2. The "Horrible Loss Alerts" emanating from the Twitter feed of Yahoo!'s Pat Forde, prefacing inexplicable defeats that reshape at-large hopes nationwide.
3. Double-round robin. No conference tournament. Best team goes. The Ivy League.
4. The possibility that MEAC heavyweights Norfolk State and North Carolina Central will finally play this season. The league's unbalanced schedule didn't include a regular-season meeting.
5. No more meaningless media or coaches' polls, or related meaningless debate about said polls.
6. The sneaky late-Saturday or early-Sunday releases of small conference tournament brackets after their regular seasons end a week earlier than the big boys.
7. The proliferation of traditional TV, apps and online streaming that lets any fan watch practically any game that has meaning.
8. Lunchtime (or brunch time) basketball.
9. Midnight basketball.
10. Major-conference fans suddenly caring a lot about the Ohio Valley semifinals or the Sun Belt quarters.
11. Conference tournament finals played on the higher seed's home court.
12. The first team into the dance.
13. When 1-seeds win small conference tournaments. #sendyourbestteam
14. A full week (and change) in Vegas for four conference tournaments.
15. New Mexico State's #INCREDIBLYLARGEMAN Sim Bhullar in Vegas.
16. San Diego State fans inviting me via Twitter to play craps with them while in Vegas.
17. "Four wins in four days".
18. The final Big East tournament (as we know it) at Madison Square Garden.
19. "Five wins in five days" (one last chance?).
20. Bubble updates all day and a new bracket every night.
21. Saint Joseph's making a deep A-10 tourney run, stressing out school radio broadcaster/Godfather of Bracketology Joe Lunardi.
22. Some 7-seed making a Sunday conference tournament final and causing mayhem in the selection room.
23. A dozen teams that can be 1-seeds. Or national champs.
24. 6:00 p.m. ET on March 17: Panic sets in for those with bracket projections.
25. 6:01 p.m. ET on March 17: The video of the selection committee shaking hands when the bracket is finished.
26. 6:03 p.m. ET on March 17: The start of the torrent of tweets ripping the job the selection committee did.
27. Post-Selection Show analyst rants that get misconstrued as predictions of advancement potential.
28. Wondering how many times those analysts have seen those mid-majors play.
29. Figuring out that Oakland U. isn't in California and Northwestern State isn't in Illinois (or the Northwest).
30. Completing a "sheet of integrity." Pick the bracket once and live with the choices.
31. The NCAA leaving the distinct floors of every arena intact so viewers have mental landmarks for which game they're watching (oh, wait, they didn't do that). #genericcourtsFTL
32. Indiana's candy stripes. Georgetown's distinctive greys. UCLA's mismatched, short-sleeve Zubaz. (Errr, scratch that last one.)
33. Wondering which coach is a couple wins away from the payday of a lifetime.
34. Wondering who will be the star player who makes The Leap (Victor Oladipo? Trey Burke? Doug McDermott?).
35. The TV voices that make every March feel like home.
36. "Onions!" > "A little lingerie on the deck!"
37. Play-by-play announcers treading very carefully over promos for "Hardcore Pawn" (h/t @devyanks90).
38. All the buzz on Twitter while games are unfolding.
39. No one caring about the complete overuse of corny hashtags like #HughmeBaby, #BelieveInYourSnellf and #McLemoresThriftShop
40. Smaller-conference bands tearing it up on the national stage.
41. Bench players going from "OK, we're in this" to "starting to believe" to "this is happening" to "THIS IS GONNA HAPPEN" as an upset bid develops.
42. 12s over 5s.
43. 15s over 2s.
44. 16 over 1??? (Nah...).
45. Epic games in losing efforts: The Brian Penny All-Stars.
46. Bracket sheets stained with red ink, cross outs and frustrated Xs.
47. "That game" when a John Beilein offense clicks on all cylinders and it's majestic.
48. The subsequent overhype of a team (non-Michigan-specific) based on that kind of performance.
49. The wonderment of the general public: "Wow, that [Joe Harris/Guy From A Team That's Not On National TV 30 Times] is really good!"
50. When random guys with long surnames become verbs. #pittsnogled #farokhmanesh'd (h/t @GottliebShow)
51. Seniors playing like it's their last game ever, because it may be.
53. Establishing a player to hate for the rest of eternity when he ends your team's season on a buzzer-beater. (h/t @therealestdan)
54. Winning locker rooms.
55. Post-game press conferences like this.
57. Imagining a "Stretch 4" 3-point shootout between Erik Murphy and Ryan Kelly.
58. Kelly Olynyk's hair.
59. Kelly Olynyk's game.
60. The three or four days of national buzz for the biggest Cinderellas that make the second weekend.
61. The belief that making the second weekend isn't like making the Final Four, thanks to George Mason, Butler and VCU.
62. Final Four Saturday and National Championship Monday.
63. The trophy celebration on the court after the national title game.
64. Mascots doing snow angels in confetti at midcourt.
65. Net cutting and net wearing.
66. One Shining Moment.
67. Confirming the work colleague who picked teams by colors won your office pool.
68. Tuesday morning's discussion of the following season's top 25, as we again start counting the days until November.@SI_NCAABB