By Paul Morrone CFP®, CPA, MSA
From buzzer beaters to blowouts, including the biggest upset in NCAA history, this year’s March Madness certainly didn’t disappoint. Growing up watching, playing and coaching basketball, this is naturally an exciting time of year for me. The deluge of games in the first weekend is enough to make any sports fan giddy with excitement, and I’m no exception to that. With no vested interest in any one team this year (as my Huskies didn’t make the cut), I was able to focus on the best matchups and watch the most exciting games as they unfolded. Even though the UCONN men weren’t playing, I would be foolish not to mention the women Huskies as their loss to Notre Dame caught everyone off-guard. I’ve written about their incredible achievements in the past, but this year proves that stringing together a series of consecutive championship wins is more difficult than it appears on paper. That’s what I love about sports, on any given day you can’t possibly predict what is going to happen.
The crescendo of a close game is always in the last two minutes and it’s my favorite time to watch the faces and actions of the coaches on the sideline. There is a sub-plot to the whole game which takes place in the corner of the screen and in the back of the frame on your TV set which many simply overlook as they focus on the players. Growing up as a UCONN fan, I became accustomed to see Jim Calhoun on the sideline screaming like a lunatic, his tie loose and covered in sweat. He was a close second to Tom Izzo of Michigan State whose style is so animated that he could have his own show. It’s during this time that many teams have learned the hard way how critical free throws can be, as many close games have been won and lost at the line. The clock can either be friend or foe, depending upon your position on the scoreboard, and the ability to remain composed and make quality shots can be the difference between creating a legacy and simply second place. Whoever triumphs this year will have certainly earned it, as the road to the final four is certainly not an easy one.
For me, the enjoyment comes from watching the nuances of the games. I love to see how strategic coaching calls manifest themselves on the court, from offensive play calling to defensive selection. The best teams move the ball across the court so well it seems natural. Similar to watching pro golfers effortlessly swing a club (which anyone who has played golf knows is incredibly difficult to replicate), watching a basketball team execute flawless passes like a well-oiled machine is more art than science. When all the cogs in the wheel seamlessly work together, the result is a quick assist and a quality shot. Combine these play-making skills with the ability to shoot the lights out (I’m talking about you, Villanova), and you have a recipe that can take you all the way to the big dance on Monday night. Kudos to ‘Nova for shooting their way to another championship and to the Notre Dame women for putting on yet another stunning show with a last-second 3-pointer to take home the title.