If you lack a pulse, or heart, then March Madness is probably not for you.
Between the buzzer beaters, upsets, nail-biters, and evocative narratives produced during this three-week period in March, it has the ability to turn even the coldest bitch into a sobbing Sally.
This year’s Round of 64, or first round, or second round, or whatever the NCAA is calling the first Thursday and Friday of the NCAA Tournament was a whirlwind of fun.
As a competition built for letting remarkable stories tell themselves, the opening slate of 32 games gave us everything we could have asked for.
However, despite the record-breaking action Thursday produced, and the heart rate-leveling tilts on Friday, one storyline really stands out above the rest.
The University of Alabama-Birmingham.
Make no mistake, this wasn’t just another 14-3 upset.
After having their football program cut in December of 2014, the UAB Blazers needed a distraction, any distraction, from the reverberating backlash the school had taken from the understandably unpopular decision.
The Blazers punched their ticket to the big dance by way of winning the Conference USA tournament. Selection Sunday came and the committee slated them against one of the tournament darlings, Iowa State.
Despite being matched up against what seemed like the sexy pick to reach the Final Four, head coach Jerod Haase wasn’t going to let his team back down.
“With the belief of everyone in this room, we’re going to earn our way to move forward” is what he told his team.
And they responded, upsetting the Cyclones 60-59.
Their one-point win was one of five on the day Thursday, but considering just how monumental of a victory it was for UAB and their fans, the record-tying day seemed miniscule.
Here’s who else squeezed out narrow wins on Thursday alongside the Blazers:
(14) UAB def. (3) Iowa State 60-59
(14) Georgia State def. (3) Baylor 57-56
(11) UCLA def. (6) SMU 60-59
(8) Cincinnati def. (9) Purdue 66-65 OT
(8) NC State def. (9) LSU 66-65
The entire 2013 and 2014 NCAA Tournaments as a whole featured five games decided by a single point combined. Last night had five alone.
Despite 15 of the 16 favorites moving on from Friday’s schedule, it didn’t come and go without its share of nail-biting contests. Three more games were decided by five points or fewer, and while the final score may not tell the true story, 15 seeds Belmont and North Dakota State gave both Virginia and Gonzaga runs for their money.
Unfortunately, buried beneath all of it was the forgotten Blazers. They’re the real story of this opening round.
The Blazers’ journey came to an end today with a loss to Pac-12 UCLA. Given the state of the school’s athletic department simply making it to the tournament was enough for their fans.
Winning one game was an added treat.
But one thing we can all understand is that the UAB Blazers gave us a very important lesson in being grateful for the opportunities that you do have.
The Blazers’ players have no reason to hold their heads. They put an entire athletic program on their back and became a bright spot in otherwise dark days for a school and its fans.
Featured Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)