My holiday is NCAA tourney

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 23, 2008

Everybody looks forward to holidays.

Whether its shooting off fireworks on New Years and Independence Day to stuffing your face full of turkey and dressing on Thanksgiving, holidays are generally events that bring friends and families together.

While I enjoy those holidays, being the sports fanatic that I am, I have my own holiday calendar that revolves around sporting events.

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My sporting Christmas Day is the opening day of Major League Baseball season.

My favorite two weeks of the year, my sports Hanukkah so to speak, is the two weeks of college football bowl season in late December and early January.

And my favorite sports weekend of the entire year, all the holidays rolled up into one, is the weekend we are experiencing right now, the first two rounds of the NCAA basketball tournament, otherwise known as March Madness.

No four days of the entire year get my — and all other sports nuts like me — blood pumping than the first weekend, which began on Thursday and ends today.

Instead of shopping for presents or smoking a turkey, I prepared for this weekend by printing out brackets and studying up on the teams so I could make an educated guess on which teams to pick.

While kids at Christmastime have visions of sugar plums, I had buzzer beaters and Cinderella teams dancing in my head the past few nights.

My wife thinks I’m a little strange, but can you really blame me after the first three days of the tournament so far?

Those first three days have already made up for last year’s first weekend snoozefest, where only one lower seeded team won in the first round and the lowest seeded team to make the Sweet 16 was No. 7 seeded UNLV.

This year, there has been great game after great game.

It started on Thursday night, when No. 15 seeded Belmont took No. 2 seed Duke to the wire before falling 71-70 in the final seconds.

That just whetted the appetite for Friday.

Something was apparently in the water in Tampa, because all four games at that site were won by the lower-seeded team. That is the first time in the history of the tournament that four lower-seeded teams have won in the same day at the same site.

Two of those games were decided on buzzer beaters in overtime. No. 12 seed Western Kentucky stunned No. 5 seed Drake 101-99 on an NBA range 3-pointer at the horn and No. 13 seed San Diego bested No. 4 seed Connecticut 70-69 on a shot with 1.2 seconds left.

Throw in No. 13 seed Siena’s whipping of fourth seeded Vanderbilt and No. 12 seed Villanova coming from 18 points down to best fifth-seeded Clemson and you have a tournament day for the ages.

And not to be forgotten, the Mississippi State Bulldogs overcame a 13-point second half deficit to beat Oregon 76-69.

Their reward? Facing top seeded Memphis. Fortunately, I’m off work Sunday so I can feel free to yell all I want to during the game.

Some might think it’s a little silly that I compare the first weekend of the NCAA tournament to Christmas or New Years, and I agree.

This is better. I mean, Christmas is just one day of receiving presents.

With all the great games we’ve seen so far, the NCAA tourney is the gift that keeps on giving.

Jeff Edwards is the sports editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3633 or