Mar 2, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Cougars head coach Kelvin Sampson celebrates after the Cougars defeated the Wichita State Shockers and won the American Athletic Conference Championship at Fertitta Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
As I stood in a small room inside Fort Worth’s Dickeys Arena just moments after Houston fell to Memphis, I was scanning the room seeing the players and coaches with the phones out, waiting to record the moment when Houston found out where they would be headed for the NCAA Tournament. As I did, something popped into my head: “The Ball is Tipped, and there you are.”
Those are the opening lyrics to One Shining Moment written by David Barrett and sung by Luther Vandross and has been the anthem behind March Madness since 1986. At the beginning, 352 schools start the season with a dream of being one of the 68 in the tournament. Almost 20% of the teams who play get a chance to play for the national championship. Compare that to only 4 of the 133 Division 1 FBS football teams who have an opportunity to compete for a title (3%).
It’s that time of year we learn about colleges with funny names and eccentric mascots. That time of year when anything can happen. All March Madness says is, “here’s a chance, a chance to succeed, a chance to fail.” From here on out, there’s no committees, no politics, no votes. It will be settled on the court as it should be. The odds of filling out a correct bracket are about 1 in 120 billion (yes, I Googled that).
Anything can happen, and that’s what makes this time of year truly magical. While yes, the Coogs had come up short against Memphis, that pain had turned to joy and anticipation. This was it –
the moment they had been thinking of since workouts started in June. Houston needs six wins
That’s it. No votes, no extra circumstances. Just six wins on the court.
I saw Coach Sampson standing next to his son Kellen, who was holding Kelvin’s grandson. I saw the hardworking Sports information director for UH, Jeff Conrad, getting ready to brief the reporters on what would happen next. I saw Freshman phenom Jarace Walker really trying to take in the moment since this will be his only March Madness run before he begins his NBA journey. So many little moments Led to this!
And as we saw ourselves on ESPN, I thought of my favorite quote from Coach Sampson “the moments where nobody’s watching prepares you for the moments where everyone is.”