Columnists, Sports

The Blue Line: March Madness

February is over now, and sports fans across the globe will miss the month home to the Super Bowl and Olympic Games. But now enters March, host of one of the most exciting sporting events of the year: the NCAA basketball tournament. The tournament, filled with elation and heartbreak, makes dreams and nightmares come true each and every year.

March Madness never ceases to amaze me. There is nothing more humbling than having three of the last four of your bracket eliminated after the Sweet 16, something that has happened to me the past three years. My brackets are always in shambles, and I know I am not alone. This year, though, I may not mind as much if my bracket gets miserably busted. My school might be the one breaking it.

However, it is still not clear if Boston University will even make the tournament at all, so the Terriers certainly do not know their potential opponent. If the Terriers are to win the Patriot League Tournament, there are some matchups that could lead to surprising results for BU.

If the stars align the right way, the team could be on its way to pulling off a memorable upset. In ESPN’s latest Bracketology with Joe Lunardi, No. 15 seed BU would play No. 2 Syracuse University. While the Orange may seem to pose a strong threat to the Terrier chances, Syracuse has shown some cracks in its foundation.

After a close one-point victory over North Carolina State University on Feb. 15, Syracuse has lost three of four contests, including a stunning to unranked Boston College and a blowout at the hands of the University of Virginia this past Saturday. To say the least, Syracuse is losing momentum heading into postseason play.

When one thinks of contemporary college basketball, one school that immediately comes to mind is Duke University. Duke has a history of excellence, with 15 Final Four appearances, six runner-ups and four national championships. But, Duke is prone to the upset. In 2012, Duke lost to Lehigh University of the Patriot League, allowing the Mountain Hawks to advance to third round for the first time in school history.

After discussing Duke, you can’t help but bring up the University of North Carolina. Michael Jordan’s alma mater is unquestionably one of the dominant forces in college basketball. With 25 conference tournament championships and five national titles, UNC is a powerhouse in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

North Carolina is not all that prone to being beaten on, though, as it has advanced to the Sweet 16 29 times out of its 42 tournament appearances. Still, the Tar Heels have lost 13 times before the Sweet 16, proving that even some of the best tournament teams can be beaten.

College basketball greatness is not limited to those ACC strongholds, but also extends to Georgetown University. The Hoyas have produced NBA greats like Allen Iverson and Hall of Famer Patrick Ewing. They have also collected 10 conference tournament championships and 11 conference regular season titles. Despite being a perennial regular season contender, Georgetown has been very beatable come tournament time

Though they have appeared in 29 NCAA Tournaments, the Hoyas have only 11 Sweet 16 appearances and only five Final Four appearances in school history.

So, even if the Terriers are slated to play an intimidating opponent, upsets happen every single year, even to the most storied teams in the nation. More importantly though, BU has all the pieces on the court it needs to stage a win for the history books.

Head coach Joe Jones has 19 years of experience under his belt, including three here at BU. In his first year with the Terriers, Jones led BU to a 12-4 America East Conference record, marking the best winning percentage in conference play for a first-year coach in program history.

Sophomore guard Maurice Watson Jr. has also quietly become one of the best point guards in the nation. His intelligence, athleticism and raw talent have led him to average 13.4 points, 6.6 assists and 3.6 rebounds per game, while shooting a solid 50.2 percent from the field.

Patriot League Preseason Player of the Year and Boston’s primary ball handler, senior guard D.J. Irving, has been instrumental in passing the torch of leadership over to Watson. In his final year, the guard has posted impressive stats, and for his efforts was named to the Patriot League All-Second Team.

The team not only has a strong veteran core, but has gotten strong play from newcomers like freshman guard Cedric Hankerson. The Florida native has shot 40.3 percent from the field and has averaged 6.1 in just about 15 minutes on the court per contest.

So, with talented, devoted players and a hardened, experienced coach, Boston University is more than capable of upsetting a team like Syracuse, Duke or Georgetown. Whether or not the team makes it that far is to be determined. But with the players and guidance this team has, don’t count out BU for this year’s Cinderella Story.

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