Year after year, ESPN bracketologists and office pool prognosticators find themselves flabbergasted at the unpredictability of the NCAA Tournament. Forecasting March Madness has turned into multi-million dollar industry in itself. Despite the tourney being nearly impossible to predict, countless Americans (many of whom are not basketball fans) participate in bracket pools with friends, family members, and co-workers. Fans purchasing 2011 Final Four tickets for next weekend's college hoops extravaganza in Houston will see powerhouses UConn and Kentucky and bracket busters Butler and VCU pursue their National Championship dreams. This "Cinderella" aspect of the Big Dance is what makes the NCAA tourney the phenomenon that it has become - the most exciting tournament in sports.
Virginia Commonwealth University's miraculous run to the Final Four is a prime example of what makes the NCAA Tournament so special. The Rams finished in fourth place in the unheralded Colonial Athletic Association this season, only qualifying for March Madness because the NCAA expanded the field to 68 teams. Nevertheless, VCU provided stark credence to the NCAA's decision to add four more teams to the tourney, knocking off USC, Georgetown, Purdue, Florida State, and #1 seeded Kansas in route to the Final Four. Head Coach Shaka Smart's team not only defeated the mighty Jayhawks, but won handily 71-61 in the Elite Eight. VCU's ability to withstand the bright lights of the college basketball's biggest stage will be determined when they meet the Butler Bulldogs next Saturday night. Regardless of what transpires at Reliant Stadium over the weekend, it's safe to say the spirit of the NCAA Tournament is alive and well.