EMMITSBURG: Over the next three weeks, a peculiar syndrome will sweep over the United States, sending Americans into a collective tizzy as they ditch work, lay bets and obsess over something called “brackets.”
Welcome to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division One Men’s Basketball Championship, better known as March Madness for the way it seizes the nation’s attention for the better part of a month.
Sixty-eight teams are vying for glory. On April 7, one will take the coveted NCAA title in Texas. And some of the stars of college basketball will quickly make their way to the professional ranks.
In the run-up to the final, millions of American sports fans will be glued to their TV screens and mobile devices, rooting for their alma maters. Some will bet big money, on the well-funded traditional powerhouse teams and the would-be Cinderellas looking to make a splash.
One such underdog is Mount Saint Mary’s, a small Catholic university of just 2,200 students located in rural Emmitsburg, Maryland.
The Mountaineers are hoping to be the first 16th seeded team in NCAA history to win a game—on Tuesday in a preliminary “play-in” game against the State University of New York at Albany.
A win would send Mount Saint Mary’s to the tournament’s main draw, and a clash with the University of Florida Gators, a number one seed and two-time NCAA champions.
“There are going to be some major upsets, and that’s what people love about it,” Mountaineers coach Jamion Christian, 31, told Agence France-Presse, explaining the tournament’s massive appeal.
“March Madness basically says that an ordinary guy, for one night, can be as good as any team in the country. It’s the American dream—being able to pick yourself up by the bootstraps and work yourself up to the top.”