Forget midterms, March Madness is around the corner

By Ryan Dixon

Do you feel it? It’s almost that time again. The most magical, wonderful time of the year. You guessed it. Midterms.

I know I enjoy this time of the school year. Heck, it’s not like grades matter now anyway. I’m not going to find a job in this journalism market. What I’m getting at is simple – forget studying because it’s almost March Madness.

I’m pumped. And you should be, too. East Tennessee State, Northern Iowa, Morehead State and Radford have already punched their tickets to the Big Dance by winning their respective conference tournaments.

Mark my words. You’ll hear about at least one of those aforementioned basketball programs again. Alas, I must hold my analysis and excitement for a soon-to-be-written column. So I’ll hold it in like my dad made me on the drive back home from Niagara Falls back in seventh grade – very uncomfortably.

I bet you’re asking why I’m already so excited for the NCAA Tournament, nearly two weeks before the first game and days before most of the major conferences begin their conference tournaments. For those of you who watched the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament this weekend – you know my reasons.

So many bracket-filler-outers become too obsessed with the traditional power houses from the Big East or ACC. Well, I watched most of the MVC’s “Arch Madness” at the Scottrade Center this weekend, and I can safely say the Missouri Valley’s brand of basketball will ruin a few brackets this year. And that’s frickin’ awesome.

In Sunday’s championship contest, the No. 3-seeded Illinois State Redbirds nearly came all the way back from a double-digit deficit to upset the top-seeded Panthers of Northern Iowa. Aside from Illinois’ last-second victory at Northwestern, it was the best played basketball game I’ve seen all year.

There were multiple lead changes, three-pointers galore, and a tight finish until the end – all of which are college basketball’s top attributes.

ISU and Northern Iowa threw punch after punch like two heavy weights as the game went to overtime and Osiris Eldridge scored 21 points (all in the second half for the Redbirds). For ISU, it was pretty much win or go home. But the Panthers clawed their way to the win and the NCAA Tournament berth.

The MVC will most likely land two teams into this year’s tournament: Northern Iowa and Creighton. Despite being blown out 73-49 by the Redbirds in Saturday’s semifinal, Creighton is beloved by many AP voters and the media. Let’s hope it’s because of their abilities and not because of Korver family tradition.

If you made it this far into the column, you’ll be rewarded with some Big Ten talk. Pat yourself on the back.

Pending a decent showing in the fast-approaching Big Ten Tournament, the Fighting Illini will most likely receive a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament. If Chester Frazier and Co. can make a run in Indianapolis, they might rise to a No. 4 seed where they’ll run into one of these mid-major conference champions.

So, Illini fans, knowing that your team will definitely be back in this year’s tournament, which scenario would you rather see play out? A No. 4-seeded Illini team take on a Sun Belt, MAC or MVC conference champion, or a No. 5-seeded Illinois facing off against the likes of South Carolina, Texas A&M; or Maryland?

It’s not as easy of a decision as you think. The mid-major conference winners always find a way to bust some brackets, but those 5/12 matchups are a headache decision too.

The No. 12 seeds always seem to be a middle of the pack program from a major conference. To put it into perspective, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi currently has Michigan as a No. 12 seed. The Wolverines beat UCLA, Duke and Illinois this season.

You just gotta love this time of the year.

Ryan Dixon is a senior in Media. He can be reached at [email protected]