The Big Dance. There's not a more appropriate nickname for the NCAA Tournament—college sports' biggest event of the year. It's a three-week marathon with 65 teams that are each vying for a chance to do what so many teams have done before. A chance to do what Texas A&M almost did with 8.9 seconds to play on Saturday night.
That's the beauty of The Big Dance. Everyone has a chance to prove that they're capable of hanging with the UCLA's of the world. Every player believes it and every fan in the arena believes it.
If you don't, just ask No. 2 seeds Georgetown and Duke. The Hoyas were knocked out of the second round by No. 10 Davidson and the Blue Devils fell to No. 7 West Virginia—two days after escaping No. 15 Belmont in the first round.
Or look at the West bracket, where UCLA—which barely advanced past A&M—is the only favorite to reach the Sweet 16. Had the Aggies won, the four teams in the Sweet 16 from the West region would have been comprised of No. 3 Xavier, No. 7 West Virginia, No. 9 Texas A&M and No. 12 Western Kentucky.
You've just got to believe.
And yes, many of you watched it all unfold in high definition on your big screen television at home. You may have even bought the pay-per-view package so you could see every minute of every game.
But watching The Big Dance unfold on TV is like claiming you know Playboy's Miss February after reading her bio in the magazine. Sure, you know she's smoking hot, you know what her favorite food is and what she likes to do in her spare time. But wouldn't you rather get to know her at The Grotto inside the Playboy mansion?
Would you ever stop telling the stories about the time you hung out with her and Hef came by to see if the two of you needed another drink?
The Big Dance is just something you just have to experience.
You have to sit at Hooters for three hours before the game, watching games from across the country, knowing that in just a matter of time, you're going to be in the arena—an arena that has a buzz that's unmatched in any other college sporting event. Going to an NCAA Tournament game is different because everyone knows that one team's season is going to end in just two hours while another team is another step closer to a national championship.
Two years ago, you would have gone into the arena in Jacksonville and watched the Aggies knock off the hottest team in the country in Syracuse. Then you went out and heard fans from all four schools talk about how incredible the Aggie Dance Team is—the hidden jewel of Texas A&M athletics—still believing.
Last year, you would have partied into the night with Kentucky fans, who are thanking you for knocking off their arch-rival Louisville, in Kentucky. Then you packed your bags and headed for the Sweet 16 in San Antonio the following weekend—still believing.
On Saturday, you would have listened to all the smack talk UCLA fans could throw at you for two days. You would have gone into the Honda Center, knowing that you would be joined by 17,000 opposing fans. You also knew that the Bruins had more talent, a more experienced coaching staff and that A&M was probably not going to be the beneficiary of several calls (although, you probably didn't know just how bad one call would be)—but you were still believing.
Then all of a sudden, the Aggies are up by 10 points with 15 minutes to play. You start wondering how you're going to pay for a trip to Phoenix the next weekend. You've come this far, there's no turning back now.
Then you look around and see the faces of the UCLA fans, their mouths wide open, their hearts pounding. Their season seems to be coming to a screeching halt against some team from Texas, just minutes away from their campus. They're scared and you're still believing.
All of this after you watched Stanford fans celebrate an overtime win against Marquette in the first game of the session at the Honda Center. You start imagining the maroon-clad section 123 celebrating in the same fashion—although, with a much better looking dance team leading the celebration.
It doesn't matter what's happened up until this point. The Aggies' back-to-back losses against Kansas State and Texas Tech are long gone. The home losses to Oklahoma State and Nebraska? Forget about it. It comes down to this.
And even though the Aggies fell two points short this time, that's what makes the NCAA Tournament so special—and what college football players don't have a chance to experience. Sure, playing Texas at Kyle Field in the season finale is fun, but it's not like this.
Beating UCLA would have been bigger than any football win up until this point.
If the Aggies could have pulled off the upset, they would have been just four wins away from a national championship. And while that may sound crazy, they would have been favored against No. 12 Western Kentucky in the next game, and would have been paired with the winner of No. 3 Xavier/No. 7 West Virginia in the regional final.
The winner would have a good shot of meeting Texas—a team the Aggies have beaten once this year already—in San Antonio.
And while those of you watching on TV would have no doubt celebrated into the night, CBS would have cut over to the next exciting finish. You would have turned off your TV and met up with friends to celebrate—or worse, get back to reality.
But for those 500 A&M fans in attendance on Saturday, we would have stayed in the arena until they kicked us out. We would have mobbed the team at the bus. We would have stayed up all night (after booking our flight to Phoenix, of course) wondering if the Aggies could really be two games away from the Final Four in San Antonio.
Does it get any bigger than that?
The Big Dance is one of a kind
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