It was last Sunday, mid-afternoon, when the shot went in. And with it, an annual American tradition began.
The setting where it began was the Big South Conference Tournament Championship. Radford University played Liberty University in this winner-take-all college basketball game. On the line was an invitation to the NCAA Tournament, unofficially known as March Madness.
The Madness of March Madness:
College basketball teams are divided into conferences. To put it in a simple way, some conferences have only high-level teams in them. They are known as major conferences. Other conferences have lower-level teams in them. They are referred to as mid-major conferences.
All teams play a 30-35 game regular season featuring some non-conference games against anybody they schedule themselves to play. Most of the schedule features games against other teams in the same conference.
At the end of the regular season, every conference plays a tournament. The winner of that tournament earns an automatic bid into the season-ending NCAA Tournament.
The rest of the teams without an automatic bid are hoping to earn an at-large bid to fill out the rest of the 68-team March Madness field. Almost all of those teams come from major conferences.
Then, the 68-team tournament begins. The winner of that tournament is the college basketball champion.
The Madness Explained Again:
Let me state that in a simpler way. There is a regular season. Then there's a bunch of conference tournaments. Together, those two things determine who plays in the final tournament, known as March Madness. The winner of that tournament is the champion.
As a fan, it is one of the most enjoyable things to watch. As a way of determining a champion for college basketball each year, it is a terrible system.
Except for one thing.
The One Benefit to the Madness:
Unlike college football, which was highlighted on this site during the fall months, college basketball has at least created a system that gives every team a chance. Even the smallest mid-major team is able to win their conference tournament and then win the big tournament.
That is as far as the benefits go, though.
May the best team win.