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Hey, My Big Sister Was Right

Posted by Ryne E. Hancock on March 20, 2008

On March 9th, two things happened:

The first one was that my big sister Renetria turned 25 (no, Matt you can’t have her)  and the second one was when Drake University, a school that was picked to finish ninth in the Missouri Valley Conference, defeated Illinois State to punch their first ticket to the Big Dance in almost 40 years.

When everyone, as my sister would say, least expected it.

Beginning on Thursday, the nation will be introduced to first-time participants like American, whose coach Jeff Jones was in tears after leading the Eagles to the Patriot League championship over Colgate.

The Georgia Bulldogs, winners of two games in one day, last-place finishers in the SEC East turned improbable SEC Tournament Champions, will have their hands full with the Xavier Musketeers.

And then you have Mount St. Mary’s, whose campus was shaken by the death of one of their biggest supporters in a campus housing fall, winning their first tournament game ever against another team my sister probably would root for, Coppin State, a team that became the first school to ever get in the tournament with 20 losses.

Their reward for that win would be a date with my pick to win the National Title, the North Carolina Tar Heels, in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Of course, we all know that they’re going to get stomped all over the place, but for one day we college basketball nuts need to root for the small school, even it means that they’re going to get crushed by the tandem of Wayne Ellington and Tyler Hansborough.

Next to Mount St. Mary’s would be another redemption story, the Baylor Bears, once known as a National punchline because of the scandal that rocked the basketball program five years ago, in their first tournament in 20 years thanks in part to the play of Aaron Bruce and the coaching of Scott Drew.

Pretty easy to root for them, right?

There’s one of my picks for greatest basketball program in the South, the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, with their 20th appearance in the Big Dance and first one in five years being joined by South Alabama, who shared the Sun Belt title with the Toppers.

Then you have Arizona, a team that wasn’t in many experts’ brackets, making into the show for the 24th straight year as a 10 seed heading up against West Virginia, who pulled off an upset of UCONN in the Big East Tournament.

And finally the St. Joseph Red Hawks, who closed out an era in basketball weeks earlier with a win over the Xavier Musketeers, defeated the same Musketeer squad in the A-10 Tournament and gained an unexpected bid to the Big Dance.

Come Thursday, March Madness will exceed to a different level.

Sure, there’ll be upsets and thrilling finishes.

But for these aforementioned teams, many of which had waited years to get to this stage, it all came when no one least expected it.

They just had to be ready when it came.

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