By: Sabrina Brown
In my family, basketball is a religion. It’s as integral to our lives as family dinners, Christmas Eve parties and arguing about politics.
Naturally, March Madness is the main event. As a kid, I knew that March meant I could stay up late watching basketball with my dad — not that I could sleep through all the yelling if I tried — and fill out a bracket based on my love or hatred for a team’s mascot or colors. The tournament was magical, and I relished in every second of it.
As I got older, though, it started to lose some of its magic. Teams I liked would lose, often in terribly stupid ways. I’d be up late into the night yelling at players in a far off city to just make their damn free throws.
My bracket warranted hours of laborious analysis pitted against my ever-present refusal to put Duke in my Final Four. March was awesome, but it’d lost some of its magic.
After I’d decided to go to Xavier, my family and I obviously started to become invested in Xavier basketball. I watched every game intently and was devastated at the end of the Kansas State game.
There’s an entirely different kind of dedication, however, that exists when you’re watching your own school play basketball. Xavier’s student section speaks for itself.
You stand out in the cold, scream until you’re hoarse and enjoy every moment of it. It’s terribly idiotic, really, but there’s just something phenomenal about watching your team go down to the wire to beat your rivals with an arena full of people just as invested in the game’s outcome as you are.
It’s also equally devastating when you’re watching them lose. My first tournament experience as a Xavier student was less than ideal.
My now roommates and I drove four hours — five with traffic — up to Cleveland only to watch our team lose in an awfully heartbreaking way.
It’s hard to see the magic of March when you’re cursing the very sport to the high heavens, which, believe me, I did. The next year, however, reminded me why my childhood self was entirely enamored with March Madness.
For my sophomore year, and first year as Newswire Sports Editor, Xavier was placed at Greensboro, NC, a site which included not only Xavier, but teams like Duke and North Carolina as well.
As I’ve mentioned, watching your school win a big game is an awesome feeling. When that game happens to be an NCAA tournament game, the experience is indescribable, though I sat quietly on press row literally biting my tongue while it happened. It wasn’t either of Xavier’s games that weekend that provoked that childhood feeling of magic from me, though.
That weekend, 15-seeded Lehigh beat two seed Duke 75-70 in a game that I will never forget.
I hate Duke. It would be pretty hard for me to choose between seeing Xavier lose to Duke or Dayton, and that’s saying something. Seeing the Blue Devils lose to a 15 seed while playing in their home state? Priceless.
What made the game so spectacular though, was the fans. UNC had played just before Lehigh and Duke took the floor, meaning most of the fans had stayed for the second game included in their ticket packages.
When it was clear that Lehigh had a fighting chance, thousands of fans in Carolina Blue, and some donning Vermont apparel, requested signs from Lehigh — they’d been handing them out throughout the game — and learned the cheers for a school most hadn’t heard of before that March evening.
An enormous stadium was filled with fans of all different teams cheering incessantly for the underdog, hoping mercilessly for a Cinderella sighting.
It was in that moment that I remembered why I’d always so loved college basketball: anyone, on any given night, has the ability to best any team, a fact that is made painfully evident in March.
Underdog teams like Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) can reach the Sweet 16, notoriously talented teams can fall to nobodies and fans of all different teams rally behind those they find most worthy.
It’s impossible to predict, even though we try so desperately to make it so, and unites us in the strangest of ways. We rally behind the underdog (or injured: Louisville), lament when our bracket is entirely wrong and rejoice when it’s right.
Teams only get one shot, and while that’s often devastating, it’s what makes college basketball so incredible. We get to marvel at the magic of unpredictability. I have no idea where this year’s season will take us, but if Xavier basketball has taught me one thing over the past four years, it’s sure to be one hell of a ride.