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Let the madness begin: College basketball is here

All Jacked Up

By Jack Reyering, For The Miami Student

Today marks the beginning of madness.

College basketball returns Friday, and the 31-hour tipoff marathon is Nov. 16. For fans of the game, college basketball could not return soon enough.

The more die-hard fans of college basketball will be tuning in all year to see their favorite teams and the best matchups of the regular season. Less dedicated fans will tell you that the regular season is meaningless, and that the postseason tournaments are the only things that really matter.

Here are several reasons why I love college basketball and why every game matters.

The upsets

This is a staple of all major college sports. There are 351 Division I basketball programs in the NCAA, which equates to a huge gap between the best teams and the worst teams. But each year, each team has a handful of matchups where it is either the heavy favorite or a huge underdog.

This happens in both the regular season and the NCAA tournament. And every year, some team loses or wins a game that they shouldn't have.

Who would have ever believed it if they were told New Jersey Institute of Technology would beat University of Michigan in Ann Arbor last December? Not me. Not ever. But it happened, and an upset like that happens every year.

The rivalries

There are rivalries in every level of sports, but none are quite like those in college sports. Yes, college football has its traditions, but college basketball has just as much tradition, if not more.

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Though conference realignment has ended several great basketball rivalries (at least for now), there are still dozens of great rivalries marked by historic traditions and deep-seeded hatred that spans generations.

Duke vs. UNC, Louisville vs. Kentucky, Penn vs. Princeton - the list goes on and on. These games often produce the most memorable moments of the season. They are filled with buzzer beaters, future stars and the feeling that at any moment, a fight could break out mid-court.

Conference tournaments

For the majority of the conferences in college basketball, only one team will get to represent its conference in March. Unless they go undefeated or are near-perfect during the regular season, these teams have to win their conference tournaments to make it into the March NCAA tournament.

This makes for some of the most exciting basketball you will see. Teams are literally fighting for their postseason lives, laying it all on the line for a shot at the big dance. Without winning the conference tournament, we probably would have never heard of teams like Davidson, George Mason and Lehigh. They all take the long route to the tourney, but they help make it special.

The NCAA tournament

It is the most perfect tournament in American sports. The NCAA keeps trying to find ways to make it better, but they can't. It is already perfect as is: a compilation of 68 teams from around the country, each with a shot to win it all.

Fans immerse themselves in the madness, trying to design that elusive perfect bracket. The NCAA tournament is what sick days were invented for. It's an all-day, month-long marathon of triple-overtime thrillers, half court buzzer beaters and mid-major Cinderellas. All of these together make the tournament so special. Legends are born in March.

The college basketball season is a marathon. Games in November and December can have major implications later on in the year. There is a lot to look forward to in the early parts of the year, and the whole season builds up towards March.

But March is a long ways away. For now, just be thankful that basketball is back.