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2007: MARCH MANIFESTO: SECRET #4

NCAA Tournament | All 65 Team Capsules | Win Your Pool

By Adam Stanco

BasketballWriter@cs.com

 

7 Secrets to NCAA Tournament Success: Experience

 

Anticipation drapes over the entire country. Office break rooms are aflutter with chatty non-sports fans sharing thoughts on the game with other chatty non-sports fans. Our neighbors, our family, random strangers. Everyone, it seems, has an opinion on the game.

 

Only two major sporting events grab us all by the neck and force us to watch. One is the Super Bowl. The other is the NCAA Tournament. The Super Bowl is played by football professionals with multi-million dollar salaries. The NCAA Tournament is played by teenagers from Florida A&M and Central Connecticut State.

 

Think nerves aren’t a factor?

 

And it isn’t just about the little guys. Tournament games are exercises in obsessive intensity. The one-and-done format is already intimidating enough to melt steel guts into gelatin. When an underdog drips desperation, desire, and a dream-come-true mentality, their favored counterparts may see the exit long before reaching their desired destination.

 

The most successful teams play with panache, while still protecting the basketball. Experience equals calmness. Relaxed teams rarely face frigid shooting stretches or suffer from turnoveritis. Upperclassmen who previously pushed through arduous tourney runs are more comfortable playing without worry. They also play with more appreciation for the opportunity. Juniors and seniors realize how quickly four years slips away. By the time their scholarship clocks click to a close, they play every game as if it is their last. That is, of course, because it could be.

 

During the 1995 NCAA Tournament, UCLA senior forward Ed O’Bannon was a case study in resiliency. At the tail end of a turbulent career sullied by knee injuries, he cherished each trip down the floor during each of his last six tourney games. O’Bannon relentlessly pursued the title as if he were Kirstie Alley chasing a chili dog. Knowing just one loss would terminate his career, O’Bannon’s urgent play garnered a championship banner for Westwood and a Most Outstanding Player trophy for himself.

 

Michigan State’s talented seniors Mateen Cleaves and Morris Peterson showed a similar now-or-never attitude in 2000. They won a National Championship a year after losing to Duke in the national semi-finals. Same was true of Juan Dixon and the 2002 Maryland title team. A season prior to winning it all, the Terps were also knocked out of the Final Four by the Blue Devils.

 

Thus, a year after Duke defeated them, the display of desperation from Cleaves, Peterson, and Dixon was the most important reason their teams won titles.

 

Examples:

Florida

Long Beach State

Maryland

Wisconsin

 

Secrets For NCAA Tournament Success:

 

  1. Talent - NBA potential is no joke.

  2. Post Defense - The bigger, the better.

  3. Sharp Shooting - Simple math: three is better than two.

  4. Experience - Who has nerves of steel?

  5. Star Power - Winning is the All-American way.

  6. Guard Play - Little guys point the way.

  7. X-Factor - Fear of the unknown.

 

The March Manifesto is the secret to filling out your NCAA Tournament bracket.

 

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