It happens every March. The brackets are revealed the third Sunday in March and all-around the country, junior bracketologists embark on a hopped-up game of pin the tall on the donkey trying to predict the perfect upset.
It happens every year a team comes out of right field and captures the heart of America. Whether it’s Florida Gulf Coast who was seemingly the 19th division 1 University in the state of Florida. Or Georgia State who is arguably somehow the best basketball team in the state of Georgia. Or the Bulldogs of Butler and their Hoosiers-esque run to the Tournament final in their own backyard. Whether it’s a 12 seed or the Cinderella 15 seed, it’s inevitable. But why do why love these underdog stories?
We love these teams because of their refreshing stories. You can only listen to ESPN drone on and on about 30 something and 0 Kentucky for so long. Just like you can only listen to the same lecture in class for so long. We love the individuality of these teams. There can be multiple blue bloods of college basketball but there is only one dunk city.
We love the Hollywood-couldn’t-have-written that scripts. See the 2010 Butler Bulldogs, a 5-seed was never considered to be the hunt for a national title. It was the team from the Hoosier state making a Hoosier’s like run to the national championship game in the heart of Hoosier nation.
We love to see the villains, the Duke’s, the Syracuse’s, and the Carolina’s take a backseat. We love to see a fresh face, just like everyone loves the new kid at school.
We love these underdogs because they are who we strive to be. Hard-workers who live under the radar, but have an individual story they are ready and willing to tell. Someone who seizes the limelight when they get the chance. Someone who makes the most of the sliver of an opportunity that they are given. But most of all..
We love the underdog because they remind us of ourselves.
In this delightfully stupid video from BYUtv, which, yes, is the TV station of Brigham Young University, a soccer goalie repeatedly takes soccer balls to the face in a penalty shootuout.
It’s a silly and simple premise, but like all funny things, it’s the execution that counts. From the faux British announcers to the look on the poor goalie’s face as he tries to escape more punishment, it’s a video that gets funnier the longer you watch it.
With 16 teams left in the NCAA tournament, there are 256 different combinations of Final Four matchups. We at FTW decided that 213 of those matchups would be relatively boring, so we came up with the 43 best, based on various criteria that have very, very little to do with basketball. Given the brackets, all of the following Final Fours are possibilities, it’s just a matter of which direction fate is looking to go.
1. The Favorites Final Four
(USA TODAY Sports Images)
Kentucky, Arizona, Oklahoma, Duke
2. The Underdogs Final Four
(USA TODAY Sports Images)
Wichita State, Xavier, N.C. State, UCLA
3. The Animal Mascots You’ve Never Seen Before Final Four
Forget a pack, you haven’t seen a WOLF. (Wikipedia)
Kentucky Wildcats, Arizona Wildcats, N.C. State Wolfpack, UCLA Bruins
4. The No One’s Really Sure What Your Mascot Is Final Four
It’s a question often posed by teammates to one another: would you rather be a great player on an mediocre team or a benchwarmer on a great team? DJ Newbill was for 3 years the best player on a less than mediocre team. And he poured his heart and soul into the Penn State basketball program for 3 years. All the emotions of a storied career spilled over after Newbill’s legendary college career came to a close with Penn State’s loss to Purdue in the Big Ten Quarterfinals 64-59.
“DJ Newbill cried so hard as the buzzer sounded that he covered his face and nearly collapsed to the floor.”- Statecollege.com Ben Jones
Photo via usatoday.com
But in no way was this your run-of-the-mill end of career cry. Newbill endured more than anyone should have, losing his mother to cancer before she ever got to witness him play a collegiate game at Penn State. Newbill had transferred from Southern Miss to be closer to his mother. Newbill somehow overcame an unthinkable loss and averaged 16.3 points per contest. He continued to improve each year at Penn State. Scoring 17.8 PPG his junior season and 20.7 PPG in his senior season.
He didn’t just lead Penn State’s program, he put the entire team on his shoulders and carried them for 3 years. In Newbill’s 3 years at Penn State, the Nittany Lions secured a CBI berth and their first winning season since 2010-11. If this was professional basketball, Newbill would be the definition of a franchise player but this is the rough and tumble world of college basketball and Newbill must move on.
As the Big Ten’s leading scorer Newbill was snubbed from the All Big Ten 1st team. It is disappointing to see a player so talented, who has endured so much be shorted of an award he undoubtedly deserved. It is just one example of how Newbill has been neglected by mainstream media. Had he played for Ohio State or UCLA, Newbill would have been well known and all-over all star teams. But one of college basketball’s biggest stars is highly under the radar. Which is why I sit here writing this. To recognize one of college basketball’s best current players. He may have never gotten the national attention he deserved but he carried a program and overcame a gauntlet of obstacles to get where he is today. Here’s to hoping DJ Newbill enjoys a lengthy NBA career. But most of all…
All but written off and for good reason, the Penn State Men’s basketball team headed into the Big Ten tournament a paltry 4-14 in conference play and was 2-8 in their previous ten games. The Nittany Lions were one of the bottom four teams in the Big Ten and were dropped into one of the B1G Ten tournament “play-in games”.
The 12 vs. 13 seed game isn’t usually known for drama or record breaking performances but the Penn State v. Nebraska game featured both, with PSU breaking the tournament record for blocks with 16 and Nebraska having a chance to send the game into overtime at the buzzer. The three-point shot was short and by the skin of their teeth D.J Newbill (The Big Ten’s leading scorer, 20.8 PPG but somehow 2nd team all-conference) and the Lions advanced to face 5th seed Iowa who had beat them just 2 weeks ago in overtime.
No one (including myself) gave Penn State much of a chance to take down the 5th seeded and NCAA tournament bound Hawkeyes. Trailing by 8 at the half, Newbill, Shep Garner, and Ross Travis sparked an offense that poured in 48 second half points and was unbelievably clutch down the stretch. Travis, a 25% free throw shooter made 5/6 from the stripe and had a twisting reverse layup and-1 to seal the game with 30 seconds left. Newbill put a stamp on the game with a fast break flourish that sent the PSU contingent into a frenzy.
When the horn sounded 13 seed Penn State had won 67-58 and was headed to the quarterfinals. It was Head Coach Pat Chambers post-game interview that inspired Lion fans around the country.
“Why not us? I mean why not? It could be our turn,” Chambers said
Why not us? It should serve as a reminder that no matter how bad last game or the last 10 games were it doesn’t matter. Each game is a new game. Each day is a new day. Why not us? There’s no reason a miracle can’t happen. Go State. Beat Purdue.
Conference tournaments are oft over-looked in favor of the bigger, more glamorous NCAA tournament. I mean from the MAAC to the America East, did you really know half of the one-bid, “mid-major” conferences even existed? I didn’t either. There’s two D-1 Saint Francis Universities, one in New york and one in Pennsylvania. There’s the MAC and MAAC. Know the difference. And who’d ever heard of Belmont or 11-21 Furman before they both ended up the Ohio Valley and SoCON championships? And what in the heck is on Osprey? Apparently its a bird that’s the mascot for the University of North Florida and their band was pretty fired up about winning the Atlantic Sun tournament which comes with a bid to the big dance. (Likely as a 16 seed, but who cares)
Here’s the man himself UNF freshmen Stephen Putnam who’s antics have earned him a full paid scholarship.
In the ACC there were two games that were between team who were both at least 6 games under .500 and both were down to the wire 1-point games that would have had no meaning whatsoever if they occurred at any other time of the year. But now they keep the hope alive that maybe somehow 13-18 Boston College could shock the world and win the ACC. It proves that tournament time is a time when every tame matters. When else would ESPN 2 show a game between the 12th and 13th best teams in the Big Ten, Nebraska and Penn State? When else is the Ohio Valley Conference thrust into the spotlight?
Conference tournaments deserve their fair share of the spotlight. They showcase teams who might never be noticed otherwise.. For the sake of the Coastal Carolina’s and the NorthEASTERN’S (not western’s) watch a conference tournament game. And just remember VCU, George Mason and Butler never happen without a conference tournament.