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College’s March Madness: Just Do It

Should Zion Williamson continue playing for Duke, despite his insane shoe-breaking incident while wearing Nikes last night just 30 seconds into the game against arch-rival North Carolina?

Yes.

I feel compelled to preface this blog post with the fact that I am a devoted UNC fan. My oldest sister graduated from Chapel Hill and I’ve been a Tar Heel fan ever since my family and I visited her on that beautiful campus with a stellar basketball history and legacy that has led to watching UNC play live in a dozen games.

Having said that, Duke star Zion Williamson–and he is–needs to keep playing because if fear begins to drive him regarding basketball (or other elements in his life), then he’s no longer playing to win. And I fully understand the Nick Bosa tactic, which is to sit out the remainder of a season after an injury before a massive first-pick payday that’s just months away.

I get it.

Perhaps it’s easier for me to form my opinion without all that NBA Draft money in my near future. Still, it seems like super talented athletes like Zion Williamson and Nick Bosa may be too willing these days to squander the unique awesomeness of college athletics for what’s next in their careers. That first college experience happens only once in life.

It’s worth noting, as a lifelong Buckeye fan in Columbus, I’ve noticed that a lot of former star players (especially basketball and football) return with the latest Buckeye gear by Homage after just a couple of years in the pros to relive some of the glory days on the sidelines in the Horseshoe and in the Schottenstein Center. And they along with the coaches and fans love it. It’s one of the ways that college sports are far different than professional sports. There is something truly special about college basketball and football that cannot be replicated in the NBA or NFL.

But that’s a much longer blog post for a different day.

It’s been determined that Zion Williamson’s injury is a Grade 1 knee sprain and he is being evaluated on a day-to-day basis. Even though I am a UNC fan and I enjoyed the blowout win at Cameron Indoor last night by the final score 88-72–Go Tar Heels!–I always want to see the best athletes perform on the biggest stages.

Zion Williamson is freakishly talented, so I just hope he doesn’t let a freak accident stop him from playing what will be his only college basketball season. The dream scenario is his next steps involve playing for the next month or so but doesn’t lead Duke to a win in Chapel Hill or a national title.

I think that’s fair.

P.S. I can only imagine the emergency shoe tests being orchestrated at Nike headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon today. 

“Don’t you, forget about me…”

12:15 p.m. Pens, pencils and fingers down. Let the madness begin!

March 21st is not only the day the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament starts (sans play-in games), but is also the second day of Spring. An important question to ask ourselves before the sealing wax is impressed on the envelope containing our acutely examined NCAA bracket is, “Which team will be ‘reborn’ during this tournament?”

There is no consensus “best team” in the nation. Number one seeds are naturally perceived as the favorites and most likely to win. However, Louisville, Indiana, Gonzaga and Kansas have not been dominant throughout the entire season. Each has had its stumbles and one, in particular, has endured embarrassing losses (cough cough–Kansas). Neither of these teams have a “golden ticket” to the National Championship or the Final Four.

In terms of being ‘reborn,’ this references to a team or teams that are very good, but have had a couple bad setbacks and therefore lost the attention of the country and commentators. One of the vital factors, if not the most important in making this determination, is the man who sits second in from the scorers table. A college head coach, more so than in the NBA, can spark an improbable comeback and maintain composure with his players in the most frantic and stressful situations.

The evening of January 19th was a prime example of the magic that is yearned for every year in college basketball. The game was close throughout and literally came down to the last play of the game. Relive the madness, January edition.

Brad Stevens is the coolest coach under pressure in college basketball today. His teams are fundamentally sound and he is refreshing in his demeanor. Stevens is grateful in victory and gracious in defeat. The Bulldogs did lose five games in conference and finished third at the conclusion of the Atlantic 10 regular season. Even despite their past success, most have put them in the, pardon the pun, “doghouse.”

I am not predicting Butler to win the national championship, but they did beat Gonzaga (#1 seed) and Indiana (#1 seed) in close games this season. Usually, victories in late March come down to a final shot or defensive stand…

And is it just me, or does it seem like Brad Stevens was born for this.