One year ago, the entire world was turned upside down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As the virus made its way to the United States, almost every public place in the country was forced to close its doors, including Northwestern. Unfortunately, sporting events were also one of the many victims of the pandemic.
During a two-day span in March, the NBA and NHL suspended their seasons, the MLB put a stop to Spring Training, the 2020 Olympics were postponed and the NCAA basketball tournaments for both the men and women were cancelled. However, the 2021 NCAA Division I basketball tournament signifies a return to normal. For the first time since 2019, NW students and faculty can finally get excited about the madness the tournament brings.
The college basketball fans on campus have been eagerly waiting for the return of March Madness since its cancellation last spring. The supporters of other leagues received closure because the NBA, NHL and MLB each picked up their seasons a few months later and crowned a champion. However, fans of the NCAA did not receive this luxury. Now, students can experience the dramatic upsets, come-from-behind victories and Cinderella stories that “The Big Dance” produces every year.
“I was disappointed to not watch the NCAA tournament last year. It brings a lot to the sports world,” freshman sport management major Brandon Lampi said. “It is inspiring to see low seeds achieve huge upsets, so I am glad we can potentially see that this year.”
If someone were to take a walk through one of the living spaces on campus during March Madness, it would not be surprising to see students talking about their broken bracket or huddled around a television in a small dorm room to see the last seconds of a tight contest.
“The discussion on campus is almost always focused on March Madness,” senior Hospers Hall resident assistant Colin Kaemingk said. “I do not think I can get through a single conversation with a guy on the floor without hearing about an upset or how their bracket is broken.”
After noticing the notoriety of the tournament among its students, NW’s staff decided to host a campus-wide bracket challenge, and it has proven to be a great source of enjoyment and competition for students and faculty.
“It’s been popular,” director of student programs and first-year experience Aaron Beadner said. “We average close to 250 entries every year.”
NW can finally participate in a bracket competition that has been a tradition since 2012 after sticking together and pulling through the difficulties the pandemic has brought over the past year. To enter, students and faculty had to submit their picks to a pool specifically for members of NW on the website of CBS Sports. Prizes will be given out to the first through 10th place finishers, with the top prize being a $50 gift card to Roadhouse. By the time the deadline rolled around, 316 brackets had been filled out.
As of March 25, Trey Harms and Ana DeKruyter were tied for first in the campus wide pool. Harms has the Baylor Bears earning the victory, and DeKruyter picked the Iowa Hawkeyes, but the Big 10 team lost in the second round to Oregon.
Unfortunately, no bracket submitted to NW is perfect thanks to multiple unexpected first and second round upsets. However, this is not uncommon for the NCAA tournament, and it is part of the reason why it has been dubbed “March Madness.”