It’s bandwagon jumping time.
March Madness is the one time where it seems perfectly acceptable to start cheering for teams where you can’t name more than two players or the team mascot (Shout out to the Buffalo… Bulls?!). Even if you had no idea UMBC stood for, and still don’t, it didn’t stop everybody from backing the Retrievers as the first ever No. 16 seed to win in the NCAA tournament.
It didn’t take long for some Cinderellas to emerge. Buffalo emerged as a fan favorite by drilling the Arizona Wildcats and future NBA No. 1 pick DeAndre Ayton 89-68 Thursday. It was an impressive game from the Bulls, who were led by 25 points from Wes Clark, who presumably didn’t get $100K to attend Buffalo this season.
By Friday night, the Bulls’ upset seemed tame. Virginia made history in the worst way possible, losing to UMBC by 20 points as the overall No. 1 seed. It was like the “Miracle on Ice,” minus Russians, hockey and Al Michaels. OK, it was nothing like the Miracle on Ice, it was just a ridiculous upset.
Before UMBC’s miraculous victory, maybe the most memorable moment from the first round came when Loyola-Chicago’s Donte Ingram drilled a 3-pointer with 0.4 seconds left to give the Ramblers a 64-62 victory over the Miami Hurricanes.
That (almost) buzzer beater brings me to my personal bandwagon team.
No, it’s not the Ramblers. It’s their Saturday opponent – the Tennessee Volunteers.
Now I know what you’re thinking (other than, didn’t this game already happen? – I can’t control press schedules). You’re wondering why a huge Vols fan would have to jump on the bandwagon for his alma mater.
It’s simple. I didn’t think the Vols were very good all season.
Throw the record aside, even the co-champion status in the SEC, for a second. The Vols were led by two 6-foot-5ish forwards in Admiral Schofield and Grant Williams and streaky (if you’re generous), inconsistent (in you’re not) shooters on the perimeter in guards Jordan Bowden, Jordan Bone and Lamonte Turner. Headed by Rick Barnes, who is probably just as known for his tournament struggles as he is his ability to lead teams to the NCAA tournament, I thought the Vols were destined to fail in March.
But after watching the Vols take on this year’s version of the Kentucky future NBA All-Stars in the SEC championship, I changed my tune. I think the Vols are good (even if they already lost to the Ramblers by the time you read this).
They inspired me to pick them to go all the way in my bracket, a classic homer pick. Then, the Vols showed up in a big way Thursday, pounding Wright State 73-47.
Even if Tennessee is an early exit this year, all but one player will be back next season. So this bandwagon better be comfortable. I’m going to be riding it awhile.