A Voice from the Bleachers

>Gearing Up for Another Season of Hoop Dreams

by Bruce Greenbaum, MBA2

Its back, and not a moment to soon. The NBA, the NHL, or the World Series? No. College basketball. The most captivating of all major sports.

Now my schedule can be finalized. Big Monday, Super Tuesday, doubleheader Wednesday, and triple header Thursday. My sports viewing life can be complete.

College hoops is unlike any other sport for me. It seems to keep my attention longer, and I can actually get excited about games involving schools that I didn't even attend. Sure, the NBA has exciting games once in a while; the NFL also has a couple of good games each week. Neither of them can measure up to college basketball though.

I even enjoy listening to Dick Vitale every once in a while.

I think this hard-core interest in the game can be traced back to my college days. I went to school in the ACC (at Virginia), and basketball is religion down there. Football is a distant second. You can barely see football on the horizon under the glow of basketball. If given the choice, almost all ACC fans would choose to go to the ACC Basketball Tournament over the Fiesta Bowl (or any bowl game, for that matter). Except for Florida State fans, and they aren't really members of the ACC anyway.

I am proud to say that the ACC is by far the best college basketball conference in the country. Hands down. Not just this year, or last year, but every year. No other conference can hold a candle to the success, excitement and long-standing rivalries resident in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Oh sure, every once in a while another conference will have a hot team or two and surge into national prominence - Florida in the SEC or the old Houston teams from the SWC. Other conferences have one or two dominant teams that win every year - Arizona and UCLA in the Pac 10, Georgetown, Syracuse and UCONN in the Big East, and Kansas in the Big Eight. Top to bottom, though, these conferences cannot measure up to the ACC.

Another great thing about college basketball is that many of these arguments can be carried on every year. Conference play brings out excitement in every basketball game; players know that they will face each other at least twice every season. Each game has added meaning, as most conferences also use a post-season tournament to crown the champion. Play well during the regular season and get a better seed in the conference tournament. Win the conference tournament and you will have a chance (along with 63 other schools) to win the national championship. If you win your conference in football, you are given no guarantees - unless you consider an invitation to the Weed Eater Independence Bowl a reward.

Unlike major college football, college basketball settles most of its arguments on the court. The championship is settled in the tournament , not by how many media members like the postgame meal you serve in the press box and decide to vote for you in the weekly poll. No postseason discussions about rankings or bowl games or coaches' polls are necessary.

Then, of course, there is the happening that is the NCAA Tournament. Fans become true fanatics, and people who don't care about sports even stop to watch a game. Most offices and business school group meetings are disrupted for those four weeks in March to discuss pairings sheets, last-second shots, and surprising upsets. Real fans try to sneak a small television into their office to catch up on those early round games. This is the best time of the year.

If you think about it, March Madness is one of the few big-time sporting events that most often lives up to its billing. The Super Bowl is lame every year; the NBA championship goes on for too long; and no one really cares about the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs anyway.

The season starts in two weeks - I can't wait. By the way, only four months until March Madness.

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