Growing up, whenever I made a mistake (like breaking a window with a baseball, or trusting my uncle with my allowance) I always heard the same thing. My mom would wave an admonishing finger, grow nine inches, and loudly ask, “What did you learn?!” This usually happened after I’d hurt myself, either physically or emotionally, by running into a glass door, or dropping my keys into a sewer grate, or something similarly humiliating. It never had the compassionate connotation you’d expect, but always felt more like something you’d see a Viatnamese soldier ask Robert DeNiro in Deer Hunter. So naturally, I always told my mom that I learned to use three bullets instead of just one. We were a loving family.
But it was an important lesson: whatever happens, good or bad, you can always learn something from it. Yeah, I get it, the NCAA tournament is technically still going on. But it’s no longer March, so it’s safe to say that the Madness is over. All that’s left are four competitive teams, and no genuine upsets anymore.
So here are five things we learned through the 2013 edition of March Madness. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.
1) “The only certainties in life are death and taxes and awful brackets.” -Harriet Tubman. I don’t know why I even bother anymore. I’ve always said I’d rather be lucky than good (just like I’ve always said that a perfect girl has exactly two of the three magic qualities: hot, rich, and low self-esteem). But this year, my luck, like so many others’, ran out. I guess that’s not really something I learned, so much as was reminded of, but it stings nonetheless. Especially when a nine year-old who filled out a bracket with crayon is beating me, which I assume probably happened somewhere. Frickdangit.
2) Kevin Ware is a trooper. We all saw it. Actually, that’s not true; I didn’t. I was in the kitchen, which is strange by itself since I can barely make a sandwich. But by this point, I don’t even want to see it; if you tell me it’s the grossest sports injury ever, I’m going to believe you. When Joe Theisman tweets that he feels bad for the guy, you know it’s bad. But despite not wanting any player to get injured, I’m at least glad it happened on Easter Sunday. That way, at least we can all be reminded that Christ died for his shins.
3) VCU and Butler are paying their coaches in cocaine and hookers. I mean, probably not, but you explain why else they’d want to stay there. It doesn’t make any sense. Shaka Smart and Brad Stevens have basically had their choice in any coaching vacancy in the last two years, including, recently, UCLA. And yet they remain at the middest of majors, toiling away with their 5- and 6-seeds, hoping to become perennial Cinderellas. Maybe they’re holding out for the truly coveted jobs (Coach K won’t be at Duke forever, you know), or maybe they just really love the cities they’re in. But naw, it’s probably the free drugs. And speaking of UCLA…
4) UCLA is no longer a premiere coaching job. Finish this analogy, if you would. College Ball:Bruins::NBA:_________. If you said “the Chicago Bulls,” then you are absolutely right. If you said “Rectum? Dang near killed ‘im!” then I’ll give you credit for that, too, on general principle. But both programs have one thing in common: they had one ridiculously successful decade, but have wallowed in mediocrity for the rest of their existence. UCLA, home to the most national titles in college basketball, had five crowds of over 10,000 this season. In the same year that they won the Pac-12, had the number one recruiting class, and built a brand new arena. Nobody cares anymore, so why should the coaches? Their success, like the Bulls, was tied up in a single transcendent basketball legend (John Wooden, Michael Jordan). Outside of those guys, there just isn’t much to the franchise.
5) It’s a great time to be a basketball fan in Kentucky. Seriously, it is. For Kentucky fans, it was supposed to have been a rough few weeks since missing the tournament on Selection Sunday. I mean, when you’re Kentucky, the NIT is a four-letter word. Which doesn’t even make sense, because it’s neither four-letters nor a word. It’s like taking the “Roman Empire” of college basketball and turning it into the “Holy Roman Empire” of college basketball. But really, I’ve felt more optimism around the fanbase than I ever would have expected, especially following a first-round NIT loss to the Redskins running back (he beat us all on his own like we were the Dallas Cowboys). But Kentucky is essentially just between national championship runs, and the rivalry with Louisville is at an all-time competitive high. North Carolina, who? The heart of college basketball lies somewhere on I-64. Probably around Waddy.
*UPDATE* Sorry for the blank post for the first three hours; I was in class and didn’t notice whatever formatting error made it a blank page. It wasn’t a belated April Fool’s Day joke, I promise.