Last week, we extolled the beginning of March Madness.
This week, it’s time to savor the trifecta of Big Dance destinations for our three universities.
Yes, not surprisingly, Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are both tournament-bound, both with reasonable expectations of making it deep into the event and with reasonable chances for a Final Four berth. Of course, as any veteran tournament fan knows, upsets are a fact of life in the NCAA basketball tournament. They are exhilarating if you’re the upsetter, a devastatingly abrupt end to the season if you are the victim.
Perhaps most excited at the fans of North Carolina Central University’s Eagles. For only the second time since transitioning the Division 1, the top level of NCAA competition, the Eagles will be making a trip to the tournament. They play their first game against University of California, Davis on Wednesday. A victory would be their first NCAA tournament win, and would earn them the opportunity to take on top-seeded Kansas on Friday.
The Eagles have already chalked up what Coach LeVelle Moton said was a major goal, one that is especially poignant. After the Eagles won the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Saturday afternoon, Moton said that shortly before Chancellor Debra Saunders-White died in November, he asked her what he could for her. Win a championship, she said.
We’re proud that they did.
For the Blue Devils and the Tar Heels, the NCAA tournament is the norm. Only rarely do they fail to make it, and this year both are riding momentum. UNC, the regular-season ACC champion, is the top seed in the South Region. Duke did the unprecedented in winning four games in four days, including against UNC, to win the conference tournament Saturday night.
Coach Mike Krzyzewski, whose team has had a roller-coaster season that included his absence from seven games after back surgery, marveled a bit after the win. “My team has taken me on a this journey this week that you could not plan,” he said.
For area basketball fans -- probably basketball fans everywhere -- we can open the tournament fantasizing about what would be a dream match-up. Conceivable, the two arch-rivals could meet for the fourth time this season April 3 in the national championship game.
Highly unlikely, to be sure. But if you can’t dream big about basketball here on Tobacco Road in the midst of March Madness, when can you dream? In the meantime, enjoy the frenzy of the next three weeks.