Happy Saturday! We hope you had a better week than the crew of the Ever Given, the massive ship that went adrift and got stuck sideways in the Suez Canal.
It was a pretty good week here in the Ohio bureau. Last weekend I got to watch my alma mater, Ohio University, earn a big victory in the NCAA Tournament, knocking out defending champion Virginia in the first round. My Bobcats lost on Monday night to Creighton, but the team is young and the future is bright. Can’t wait for next year.
March Madness has always been my favorite sporting event of the year, at least in years without a Summer Olympics. I remember, as a kid, getting the issue of Sports Illustrated that featured the brackets as the centerfold and carefully bending back the staples so I could take it out and fill in my predictions. In college, I was lucky enough to cover the OU men’s basketball team when they won the Mid-American Conference tournament and earned a bid, so I got to attend in person (only the first round, alas). When we turned our basement into, for lack of a better term, a “man cave” a few years ago, we installed three televisions. Not because we’re ostentatious, but because during the first couple of rounds of the tournament, there might be up to three games on at once. Who wants to choose?
This year, the tournament feels like a bit of a barometer for where we are. Last year, March Madness was one of the first big casualties of the coronavirus pandemic, and it illustrated the uncertainty we faced. Some teams earn bids to the tournament just based on the strength of their record, but every conference gets at least one team in. For smaller programs, winning your conference tournament is the only way to guarantee a spot. Last year, those conference tournaments were underway when the NBA shut down and some governors started locking down their states. The Big Ten Tournament was canceled while teams were warming up for their first game; the Big East canceled its tournament during halftime of a game. The NCAA announced on March 11 that it would play March Madness games with no spectators. Within 24 hours, it canceled the whole thing.