Welcome Back, College Basketball

Grant Foree

November 09, 2022 at 8:52 am.

The calendar has turned to November.

For some, that means it’s time to start preparing for the holidays. Time to start the Christmas shopping and getting the house decorated as soon as the last trick-or-treater comes to the door. Radio stations shift to Christmas music and cities start putting snowflakes or candy cane lights on the side of utility poles.

For others, it means college football is entering its home stretch. Four last regular season games, each week more important than the last. Division titles, conference titles, bowl berths and national titles are all at stake.

For me, November means it’s time to turn my attention back to the hardwood.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not done with football for the year. After all, I’m a student at the University of Alabama, where football will always be king.

My first full introduction to college basketball came in 2018.

I grew up a huge Tennessee Volunteers fan. That season, Tennessee, led by Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield won the SEC regular season championship and would go on to be eliminated by Loyola-Chicago during the Ramblers’ incredible run.

Over the course of that season and the next, I found myself gravitating to the TV every time the Vols took the floor. I was hooked! Sure, I had made my bracket and watched March Madness plenty of times, but there was something so special about having me rooting for own team. During that two-season period, the Vols went 57-15, appearing in two SEC Tournament championship games.

Shift to 2021.

I walked into Coleman Coliseum for the first time as a student on December 11, when the Crimson Tide, fresh off upsetting Gonzaga in Seattle, hosted No. 14 Houston. It was the first day of Christmas break. Two friends and I hopped in the car and drove back to Tuscaloosa for a 9 p.m. game.

The game itself was incredible. A back-and-forth affair, it came down to the final shot of the game, which JD Davison swatted away. The horn sounded. The band started playing “Rammer Jammer,” which the whole arena sang as loud as possible, as Houston’s Kelvin Sampson chased the officials to the tunnel.

I knew then that I had to be back. I made it my mission to be at every game I could attend in the spring semester. I saw the good, like the 87-78 win over No. 4 Baylor, and the bad, like the 66-55 loss to Kentucky (Alabama shot 3-30 from 3 that night).

One thing remained consistent over all those games. The atmosphere inside Coleman Coliseum.

See, that’s what I love about college basketball. It isn’t the craziness of March, though that’s awesome. I love the crowd.

In my opinion, the crowd could be the difference between winning and losing. Winning on the road is a nearly impossible feat. In the SEC last season, three teams (Auburn, Kentucky and Tennessee) never lost at home. Just four teams had a winning record on the road. Basketball is all about momentum. What better way is there to track momentum than the volume of the crowd?

I love it when the home team gets on a big run, bringing the entire arena to its feet, with the fans cheering so loudly that you can’t even hear the announcers on TV, or the officials blowing a whistle.

How about the absolute frenzy when a home player converts a one-and-one or takes that big charge? Or when the visiting team calls a timeout during a big run and the arena erupts to a whole new volume?

I haven’t even touched on March yet.

Who doesn’t convince themselves that their bracket is the one that’ll finally go 63/63? I know I do, every single year.

Think about the improbable runs by Butler, Florida Gulf Coast, Loyola-Chicago and Saint Peter’s. Where else could you get that? Certainly not on the gridiron.

How could you watch the 2016 national championship game and not fall in love with college basketball when Kris Jenkins hit that shot? Heck, I was 12, in my bed, way past my bedtime, trying to stay quiet so I wouldn’t wake anyone up.

There’s just something about this game. It’s addicting.

I’ll be like everyone else this month, watching football every Saturday and trying to predict what will happen. I’ll be glued to the TV for rivalry weekend and Thanksgiving NFL games during Thanksgiving break.

But I’ll also be watching the “Feast Week” festivities. Non-stop college basketball action in tiny gyms or hotel ballrooms, where we get our first sense of who might be cutting the nets down in early April.

I can’t wait to see the insanity that this season will bring. I can’t wait to see the breakout stars and the magical run that a mid-major is bound to go on in March.

Welcome back, college basketball.

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