Steamboat Pilot & Today sports reporter and photographer Joel Reichenberger can be reached at 871-4253 or jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com.
Find more columns by Joel here.
Steamboat Springs I’m writing this before the Elite Eight, so I don’t know what happened. I don’t know if, while surely sitting on my couch, nervous and excited in front of my television, Kansas State won, advancing to its first Final Four in nearly 50 years, or whether it lost, bringing to an end its best tournament run since an Elite Eight appearance in 1988.
All I know is that I’m all consumed by this NCAA Basketball Tournament, in a way I never have been before.
I threw a party Thursday to watch K-State in the Sweet 16. I thought about the game all day Wednesday, and I bounded everywhere I went all day Thursday in anticipation.
After the Wildcats won what some are calling one of the best NCAA Tournament games in the past decade, I couldn’t sleep. I still was awake four hours after the end of the double-overtime thriller, and I still was shaking, muttering uncorrelated parts of K-State fight songs and repeating “Fear the Beard!” — a slogan supporting the Cats’ star guard Jacob Pullen.
Surely it matters what ended up happening. The bracket has time and time again this tournament fallen just right for my boys. A tough-as-nails approach got the squad through the first weekend and its epic Thursday night Sweet 16 showdown with Xavier. It’d be a shame if it all ended before the Final Four.
But I hope it doesn’t matter, and I honestly don’t think it will. I can say now, writing Friday, the day before I’ll wake up and be nervous all day, before I’ll hurry along work assignments, that this for me has been the best NCAA Tournament of my life.
That this year’s rendition in particular has been special isn’t a unique argument.
This year was particularly upset-heavy. It was a trend made more fun by the fact that most of the teams pulling those shocking upsets — Cornell and Northern Iowa, for instance — were actually good, not just some unheralded kids getting hot from beyond the arch.
And there were so many story lines. From Ali Farokhmanesh’s Iranian volleyball roots and the pasty student athletes of Cornell to key injuries to top tournament contenders, there was enough story fodder after the first weekend of the tournament to last sports writers a month. There was so much to talk about that one of the tournament’s most amazing stories got little or no traction. Consider: Seven years ago, a dirty and corrupt Baylor basketball coach was trying to cover up elements of a story about one teammate murdering another.
Now, the Bears play today for a chance at the Final Four.
But it’s been more than that for me. I went last weekend to Oklahoma City to watch K-State play in the opening two rounds. I saw my Cats advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time in decades.
So, whatever happened Saturday afternoon, whether K-State is now Final Four-bound or out of the tournament, I don’t think my opinion can change.
For me, this has been March at its most mad.