By Gary Dickman.
Every year I get reminded. I sometimes forget, but the reminders are always there. I’m reminded that March Madness brings March Sadness, to put it in simple terms. And it is true. Happens almost every year.
Since I’ve followed college basketball I’ve only been satisfied at the end of the season once for the University of Hawaii basketball team. That was 2016. To win an NCAA Tournament game was something that was almost like winning a championship, for a school that only had the opportunity five times in their 100-year history. Yes, winning one game before losing in the second round that year was a great feeling. So great, you don’t feel so bad when they lost to my Maryland Terps in Round 2. My point is that, as great as postseason play in March is, very few teams win in March, and even less win their last game in conference play, let alone the NCAAs.
This past week, UH lost in the first round for the fourth consecutive tournament. It hurts, I hate that feeling of March Sadness. Up until the last 10 years or so, when either UH or Maryland had their seasons end, usually earlier than I expected, I’d be miserable for days. I didn’t want to talk to anyone, which is hard not to do when you talk on the radio for three or four hours a day. I’m a little better in March these days, but only a little. It still hurts when a season ends. I really thought Hawaii could win a game or two in the Big West Tournament, and to see them tied at 49, then down 2, 53-51, with a little over five minutes left, I thought the momentum had shifted to UH. It did, but not long enough, and now another season is over.
Every season, every team has its own stories, their own personalities and themes to remember them by. This is the COVID season, the most unusual season ever. It almost feels like it didn’t happen. I didn’t get to see this team play in person once, just like all of you who are reading this. This team couldn’t be appreciated enough by fans like every other season, and that’s too bad.
When I write about March Sadness, it’s not only losing games in March. Sometimes you lose a player or two. It’s transfer time again, and I admit, I was surprised to see yesterday that leading scorer and co-captain Justin Webster is entering the transfer portal. I’m already seeing comments on social media and on our show, “The Sports Animals,” that it’s Eran Ganot’s fault. Come on, people. I’ve been told by a very reliable source that Webster is close with Eran, likes him a lot too. He wants to play at a Power 5 school, that’s all. He thinks he’s good enough and wants to showcase his talents to hopefully be a pro someday. I do believe what I’ve been told, so he’s not leaving on bad terms, and it’s not Eran Ganot’s fault.
Well, even though UH is done playing there still is the NCAA tournament. So much about this year’s tournament is going to be very different, especially for me. I usually am back east during the tournament, I’ve gone to it at least 11-12 times. And if not at it, I’m taking in the games on east coast time and weather, which gives it another feel. Every trip back east I’ll be at an NBA or NHL game, and I’ll check out the TVs in the arena and watch some of the games. This is the first year since around 2004 or so that I’m not in NYC or Jersey during the tournament. Only a small amount of fans will be at games, which I think might lead to less big upsets. Being at the first-round games over the years, this always happens. There will be a big underdog playing a close game with a big favorite, and the fans of the other schools in the regional always cheer like crazy for the underdog, they want to see a big upset. They want to witness history.
On three occasions, I’ve attended games where a 15-seed won, and there’s nothing like it. The last time was on 2013, I had hosted San Diego State for the Diamond Head Classic, and they ended up in Philadelphia that March, and I was there too. They hooked me up with third-row seats, and they lost to No.-15 Florida Gulf Coast. They didn’t have many fans, but by halftime, all the other fans (Duke and Creighton supporters) were cheering for Florida Gulf coast. The fans loved seeing this rare occurrence. I don’t know if the upset would have happened without all the new fan support that Florida Gulf Coast got. Being with coaches’ wives with San Diego State, it was incredibly sad. And it was on Coach Steve Fisher’s birthday.
One more complaint about this years tournament. Why did the NCAA change the game days for this week? We’re all used to play-in games on Tuesday and Wednesday. Then the two best days of the year in sports, Thursday and Friday, with 16 games each day. This year, all four play-in games are on Thursday, and there will be 16 games on Friday and Saturday, then eight games on Sunday and Monday. Couldn’t they at least left the days alone?
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