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ON YOUR MARKS: March Madness at Brandeis: Basketball or Books?

By Adam Marks

Section: Arts

March 25, 2005

Im going to let you in on a little secret. Brandeis University does not have a Division I college basketball team. Our womens team has been great the last couple of years, by ECAC standards. Our mens team is a couple steps behind, but theyve had some big victories over the years. Still, basketball at Brandeis will never be what it is on Tobacco Road in North Carolina. Our homepage states that it is March Madness, but for books instead of basketballs. The average Brandeis student probably will not watch many games this March, but every student could learn a lesson from what occurs.

What makes college basketball so special in March is that everyone has the opportunity to be champion. Every Division I conference receives an automatic bid to the tournament, given to the winner of their conference tournament (except for the Ivy League, who gives the berth to its regular season champion). Every team, regardless of how poorly they played beginning in November has one final chance to make The Big Dance. Teams with seemingly nothing to play for are given a last breath, and nearly every year one takes advantage of that opportunity.

This year it was Oakland University. That would be Oakland University in Michigan, not California. The Golden Grizzlies were 9-19 during the regular season, but used a three game winning streak and a buzzer beating three pointer to win the conference championship in the Mid-Continent Conference for their first ever birth in the NCAA Tournament.

Sure, in the first round of the tournament they were blown away by North Carolina, but those players had the opportunity of a lifetime because of the way the tournament is structured.

Or how about the Bucknell Bison? They won the Patriot League conference to earn their trip to the NCAA tournament, but the big surprise came in their first game. The small school in Pennsylvania was considered fodder for Kansas, consistently one of the best programs in the country, but they outplayed them for 40 minutes and survived a last second attempt by an All-American to upset the Jayhawks in the first round. Bucknell lost to Wisconsin two days later, but their mark on this years tournament had already been left.

The lesson everyone has to learn from these teams is that even when the odds are stacked against you, hard work and determination often pay off. If you give your all to a cause studying for an impossible midterm or getting the girl in the front row to pay attention to you there is a chance it just might work out. Oakland and Bucknell both saw their luck run out, but the odds will always be against one team, and that team has a chance to prevail.

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