www.redeyechicago.com/sports/redeye-why-its-awesome-to-go-to-a-small-ncaa-tourn-20140319,0,5834763.story

redeyechicago.com

Long live the March Madness bracket buster

By Evan F. Moore

For RedEye

11:54 AM CDT, March 19, 2014

Advertisement

My favorite sporting event is the NCAA tournament. The drama in each game is unmatched. I love it when they show the jubilation of the winning team along with losing team and their crying cheerleaders. That's compelling television.

I went to Hampton University, a small school in southwestern Virginia. Notable alums include comedian Wanda Sykes and former Detroit Piston Rick Mahorn. Because I went to a school not known for sports, I missed out on big-time college athletics for the most part.

But the 2001 NCAA tournament gave me a chance to see what I've missed.

I remembered how excited everyone on campus was to be a part of March Madness. We all knew our team was served up as a sacrificial lamb to a team poised for a deep run in the tourney. Iowa State was a No. 2 seed that year, while our Pirates were a No. 15. The Cyclones had two future NBA players in Jamaal Tinsley and Paul Shirley.

Like most 15 seeds, no one gave us a chance. Iowa State's enrollment dwarfed ours, as CBS pointed out in a pregame graphic. Even NBA Hall of Famer James Worthy made a crack, saying "at least they have some pretty cheerleaders."

As the game started, I tried to stay optimistic. Hampton stayed close most of the game until Iowa State started to pull away. My optimism soon turned into reality. Then the unexpected happened: We got back in the game and took the lead.

Somehow, some way, my school pulled off the upset, 58-57. I remember jumping around my dorm room as I fielded calls from back home. Of course, I did what most college kids would do when they were excited about something—ran around campus hugging and high-fiving everyone I saw.

I know winning a first-round game in the NCAA tournament is ho-hum at most power conference schools. But at Hampton, it was a huge deal.

The postgame celebration is now immortalized in the opening montage CBS uses for the tournament. The coach who was lifted in the air with his feet dangling? Yes, that's my alma mater's one shining moment.

Evan F. Moore is a RedEye special contributor.

Want more? Discuss this article and others on RedEye Sports' Facebook page