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March Madness underway as college basketball reigns supreme

March 25, 2005. Although it was almost eight years ago, it’s one of those nights college basketball fans in Illinois can remember exactly where they were and who they were with.

At the time, I was just a 12-year-old kid who was virtually in tears because it looked as if my Fighting Illini’s magical season was coming to a close.

I remember getting yelled at by my mother for blaming every single Arizona break on the officials, just so I could yell at someone.

But most importantly, I remember screaming at the top of my lungs with my best friend when Deron Williams nailed the 3-pointer that tied the game and erased a 15-point deficit in only four minutes. Heck, I even remember the play-by-play call.

Now every time I hear “NCAA Tournament”, the image of Williams’ hitting the shot that made the entire state of Illinois shake is one of many memories that come to mind. Who could forget Stephen Curry single-handedly getting his Davidson Wildcats one bucket away from the Final Four? Or just a week later when Mario Chalmers improbably knocked down a three over the outstretched arm of Derrick Rose to force overtime and push Kansas over Memphis in the National Championship game?

What about George Mason shocking the world with their out of the blue Final Four run? Even the legendary career of Michael Jordan began with a title-clinching jumper in 1982.

The NCAA Tournament is a stage unlike any other where stars are born and legendary moments happen for the entire nation to see. With this regular season being completely unpredictable, the 2013 version of March Madness has the potential to be one of the more exciting tournaments in recent memory.

A top five spot in college basketball’s ranks has been a revolving door this season and each time we believe a favorite may have emerged, they improbably fall. Indiana had the initial spotlight, which was eventually stolen by an early-season run by Duke.

Since then we’ve seen Michigan and Kansas at the top, Indiana has taken the top spot back, and out of nowhere Gonzaga has become No. 1, as of press time. That list doesn’t even include runs made by Miami (FL), Syracuse, Georgetown and seemingly half of the Big Ten.

Since a dominant team isn’t emerging this year, it truly is anybody’s game. Now let’s not get crazy, I don’t think you’ll see a 1-seed fall to a 16, but it definitely wouldn’t be out of the question for a top seed to fall before the Sweet Sixteen.

For example, this year’s Illinois squad figures to fall somewhere in the 7 to 10-seed range and they’ve beaten two projected 1-seeds in Indiana and Gonzaga. We’ve seen Penn State grab its only Big Ten win to date versus a top-10 Michigan squad. In fact, traditional powerhouses like Kentucky, North Carolina and UCLA have spent the majority of the season unranked, but that doesn’t mean you won’t hear from these talented squads come March.

In the midst of all this parity, you can’t make one distinct prediction about who the Final Four will consist of because the tournament will be all about matchups.

It seems as if there are 10 to 15 teams that could legitimately win the whole thing and not many would be surprised. Not to mention, another mid-major Cinderella could emerge like the VCUs and Butlers of years past.

When it’s all said and done, you may find yourself worshipping a player a month from now that you have never even heard of today and that is the beauty of the NCAA Tournament.

So sit back, relax, make sure you fill out multiple different brackets and enjoy the madness that’s about to come.

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