The NCAA Basketball Tournament is considered by many to be second only to the Super Bowl when it comes to sporting events that captivate the country. A small percentage of those that enjoy March Madness every year are Knicks fans. In this particular season, Knicks fans must have all sorts of weird feelings as they watch the world’s best undergrads try to achieve a One Shining Moment. This tournament has seen mostly close games and plenty of upsets. As the field has dwindled, the consensus about these games has been that they’ve largely been close not because neither team can make big plays, but because both teams have been making big plays in turn. I’ve never believed the line of thinking that college is a better game because the players “want it more”, but when you compare single-elimination playoff games versus mediocre NBA basketball, it’s easy to see one’s appeal over the other this time of year.
For me, watching the NCAA Tournament in the midst of this Knicks season has been like driving a luxury car for a few weeks while my much-maligned vehicle is once again in the shop. This new car looks cooler and makes me actually look forward to driving, but I know that it will soon be gone just as quickly as it came. Sooner than I’d like to imagine, I’ll once again be driving my old set of wheels in all its dysfunctional glory.
Now I love the Knicks and am not planning on trading them in for a newer model, but it’s tough to come down from the excitement of the college games and watch the Knicks take on the Cavaliers. Over the past two weeks, while reading Twitter during NCAA games, I would read a tweet from a Knicks beat writer or from the official NY Knicks handle announcing the starting line-up, and it felt like “oh, right…you guys. I’ve totally been thinking about you the whole time even as I’ve been yelling passionately at the television watching all these college games.” Chris Herring of the Wall Street Journal had a similar sentiment leading up to Sunday night’s Knicks – Warriors game, right after his Michigan Wolverines lost to Kentucky in devastating fashion:
The Knicks do not have one single pick in this June’s draft, making this NCAA Tournament especially tantalizing. So while this season has seen plenty of disappointment, and its remaining prospects are cloudy, I can’t even include Cleanthony Early, Julius Randle, or any other player in my imagining a better season to come.
As I write this, the Knicks actually looked great as they trounced the Nets 110-81. Maybe UConn left some of its magic in the Garden for the Knicks to use. As the Knicks momentarily slid into the final playoff spot with a Hawks loss, I couldn’t help but think of the different playoff implications this game versus the Nets could have had: when I saw this game on the schedule in October, I assumed it would go a long way in determining who of the New York teams would obtain the 4 seed in the East, and who would therefore get home court advantage in a first round series with the other team as the 5. Instead, it’s Brooklyn clinging to the 5 and the Knicks clinging to the 8. That’s just the kind of season it’s been, and March Madness has been Pepto Bismol to my upset basketball stomach.
I had forgotten what exciting basketball looked like at times this season, but March Madness brought it back to me. Now I’m just hoping it doesn’t split on me for good after the National Championship Monday night.
Knick Knacks on March Madness:
- The Knicks have their share of tournament memories. Of course there’s Carmelo’s 2003 title with Syracuse. Two years later, Raymond Felton’s UNC Tar Heels beat Shannon Brown & Michigan State in the Final Four, then advanced to beat Deron Williams’s Illinois team for the 2005 championship. Cole Aldrich was a freshman reserve on Kansas’s 2008 championship team. And last year, Tim Hardaway Jr’s Michigan team fell just short to Louisville in the title game.
- I went to Holy Cross, where the basketball team hasn’t been to the Dance since 2007 and hasn’t won a tournament game since 1953. Maybe certain college teams brought their fans through highs and (mostly) lows this year as the Knicks have, but I wouldn’t know about that.
- If you tuned in to the East Regional games at the Garden, you would not have recognized it by looking at the court alone. If you attended the game, you obviously would have seen the retired numbers, the Chase Bridge, and other recognizably MSG features, but for the rest of us on TV, it looked pretty much like any other court. Jay Bilas tweeted “Only the NCAA can make Madison Square Garden appear generic, and indistinguishable from Spokane Arena #fail”