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The charm of March Madness returns

By Jack Yungblut, Columnist

In 2013, the Florida Gulf Coast University Eagles basketball team became the first 15-seed in NCAA tournament history to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. This year, they are up to some of the same antics.

The 19-13 Eagles made an improbable run to the finals of the Atlantic Sun Conference tournament, where they faced Stetson University. Miraculously, after a key last-second block in overtime, the FGCU is now set to attend this year's big dance.

This is the beauty of March. Any team can make a run - whether it's a powerhouse with future NBA players and maybe a recruiting violation or two or a team of 5-foot-10 white kids that look like your biology lab partner. All it takes is a few games to change the course of programs forever.

March Madness has something for everybody. Ask any sports fan and they're sure to have some sort of memory or favorite game.

For example, the kid sitting behind me in King Library as I write this says he will never forget Trey Burke hitting a 3-pointer in the Sweet Sixteen of the 2013 tournament against the Kansas Jayhawks.

My mom will never forget watching Christian Laettner hit his game-winning shot against Kentucky in the 1992 finals game to clinch the title for Duke.

Personally, I'm partial to Mario Chalmers' 2008 finals buzzer beater against Memphis to send the game to overtime. Chalmers and his Kansas squad went on to defeat Memphis in one of the best college basketball games of all time. It's a shame that the game technically never happened, according to the NCAA and thanks to John Calipari's recruiting violations.

No other championship has the allure of March Madness. Elementary school classes don't have bracket pools for college football bowl season. Dads across the nation don't get together with their buddies to bet on their brackets for the World Series. There is just something different about March.

The madness isn't just for us fans either - it creates legacies for players that can alter their basketball careers.

Steve Nash recently retired as one of the greatest point guards of all time, but he was relatively unknown until the 1993 NCAA tournament. In a first-round game against the second-seeded Arizona Wildcats, Nash made six straight free throws, leading his Santa Clara squad to an upset.

Nash is just one of the many players who made a name for themselves in March. Steph Curry is a household name now, but in 2008 he was a sophomore playing for Davidson University. Showing some of the dazzling skills he is known for now, Curry hit eight 3-pointers and scored 40 points in a first-round upset of Gonzaga.

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The next round was more of the same when Curry scored 25 points in the second half when his Wildcats took down No. 2 Georgetown. The bright lights of the NCAA Tournament provided the opportunity Curry needed to display his talent on a national stage.

Sports fans or not, everybody seems to be talking about basketball when March comes around. It's a time that brings people together to root for their favorite teams or favorite giant-slayers. This year's action is just starting up, but if the Eagles of Florida Gulf Coast are any indication, the tournament should be as great as expected.

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