The Dance Begins

And so, last night the Big Dance started as the first 13 games of the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament were played. As far as I am concerned this is the greatest tournament in sports. 64 of the greatest teams playing the greatest game, single elimination, no second chances. Like the game itself, it’s a very American format.

Actually, it’s a very Hoosier thing. The NCAA didn’t invent this, the IHSAA did. Who? you ask. The Indiana High Scholl Athletic Association is who. This until just a few years ago, is how Indiana found the best basketball team in Hoosierland, who taught the world to play. Dr. Naismith himself watching an Indiana high school game remarked that Indiana had recreated a much-improved game to what he invented.

That tournament still exists although in a mutilated form. Some years ago, the age of all must have prizes reared its ugly head and they divided it into classes, and now it’s no big deal. Well, it still is, which is why the Purdue blog I read, carries the brackets and scores for the HS tourney. That’s great for us expats, but it’s not the same.

No room anymore for a Milan to beat South Bend Central, the true back story to the movie Hoosiers. Can’t happen now, and so they took away a dream, to give a few more trophies, which have far less significance now. As I’ve said before, when you watch Hickory walk into the Butler Fieldhouse in Hoosiers, that’s a venue that Hoosier Hysteria built.

No more every February, us guys in the small schools wondering how far Cloverdale, the smallest school in the state, will get. No more wondering if this is the year when we will beat Michigan City Elston, the largest school in the state. We never did, we lost every year, in the sectional finals, usually not by all that much.

But so is the NCAA, and in truth the NBA. Back in World War II, the Hoosiers involved taught the world to play a pretty simple game, and to play it our way, and to win.

Remember the UCLA Bruins when we were young, winning the NCAA 8 out of 10 years, coached by an Indiana high school and Purdue legend, John Wooden. They’re still trying to make it happen again, they just fired Steve Alford, from New Castle and an Indiana Mr. Basketball in high school, before playing at IU under the great Bobby Knight. Who was a bit mercurial though, throwing a chair across Purdue’s court is frowned upon. Now there are rumors they are trying to poach Purdue’s Matt Painter, nobody seems overly worried though.

If your curious IU won last night, and my Boilers will play later this week, showing off their record 24th Big Ten championship, although they didn’t manage to win the tournament.

But my favorite memory of the tournament remains Indiana State versus Michigan State, Larry Bird from French Lick against Magic Johnson.

And so the dance cards are filled out and the music has begun  And after the last dance on April 8th, only one will remain standing.

Meanwhile, how about the trailer from Hoosiers, the original March Madness.

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