It’s been a crazy March Madness and for me that’s been in more ways than one. The action on the basketball court has been fast and furious with unbelievable moments—put me down as one who counts Middle Tennessee’s upset of Michigan State as the biggest in NCAA Tournament history.
But for me personally, it’s also been crazy—a family situation left me driving cross-country over the weekend and I missed a lot of games and was unable to do any blogging about it. But even within those confines, some great memories got made.
I was driving from Wisconsin to Massachusetts on Sunday and was listening to Westwood One Radio. It was fun listening to the early games, especially the Notre Dame-SF Austin thriller. But for me, as a Badger fan, the game I was waiting to tune into was Wisconsin-Xavier in prime-time.
It’s already been a successful season for the Badgers. With eight freshmen and a complete rebuilding job at hand, just making the NCAA Tournament and keeping the streak of bids alive was all I hoped for back in November. I’ve already written about this amazing turnaround authored by Greg Gard and was just hoping for a little icing on the cake here in March. And what icing it was.
I worried the team might have hit an emotional wall—getting into the NCAAs, continuing a streak of top four finishes in the conference and getting Gard the permanent head coaching job might have been all this young team had in them. When they dug an early deficit against Pitt, I figured they had finally reached the end of their rope.
But in a game that was better to watch than the 44-43 final and the postgame commentary indicated, Wisconsin came back and pulled it out. I was able to watch the game in its entirety, before having to up and hit the road for the Bay State on Sunday.
I listened to most of the game in the radio and reached Toledo by nightfall. It was time to check in and watch the end. After a couple phone calls, I saw an ending that was, even by this team’s standards, truly unbelievable.
You’ve all no doubt seen Bronson Koenig’s fallaway three from the corner with time expired to win the game 66-63. That shot is likely to live in montages for years to come. What won’t live in is Koenig’s deep three just moments earlier to tie the game. Or Zach Showalter taking a charge on a possession Xavier could have won it on. A friend and I have often joked about a new stat called the “Zachie S Index”, which would tally up dives on the floor and charges drawn. It just seemed fitting that the defensive play of the year was Zachie taking a charge.
That set up the last possession and Koenig’s shot for the ages. I likely woke up the entire second floor on the Red Roof Inn when it went down.
It would have been great to spend my usual Sunday watching the Round of 32 from the comfort of the living room. It wasn’t meant to be this year, but in its own way that made it more special. I’ll never forget going nuts in Toledo or letting the NCAA Tournament keep me company on the long drive down I-90 East.
Tonight, Wisconsin plays again, and tonight again I’ll be out of pocket. It’s Good Friday and the best service for my girlfriend to attend is at 7:30 PM ET, right at tipoff. But that’s okay—I’m hoping to be checking my phone coming out of church and hopefully saying “let’s hurry back to your house for the end.” March Madness can make memories for anyone, no matter what the circumstances. Just embrace the moment.