March Madness? How about MARCH INSANITY.
March Madness is not, upon reflection, actually all that mad. Sportscasters certainly act like it is; "Can you believe the unbelievable thing that just happened??" they'll implore each other, flailing their arms and then having a heart attack, for emphasis. But then the unbelievable thing they're yelling about turns out to be that some bad team made it further than usual and then promptly lost. Big teams always win, small teams always lose, and Cinderella teams always turn into pumpkins at midnight.
But college basketball does have its share of legitimately crazy stories. Here are some of the better ones.
5.) Wildcats banned from playoffs due to postal mishap
You're not allowed to pay college athletes, but that clearly didn't stop the University of Kentucky, who in 1988 sent a recruit's dad a package so full of illegal dollars that it exploded in a burst of criminality right on the mail sorting line. "What illegal money?" protested the assistant coach, sweating profusely. "What even is 'money?' Where am I??" Then he resigned in confusion. Head coach Eddie Sutton, who also had to resign, maintains to this day that it was "a setup," because illegal packages can hold well over a thousand dollars before they explode, which he knows because, uh, nothing, never mind.
4.) Coach sighs, plays game himself
In 1951, Tennessee Tech and Morehead State played a game so terrible that twelve players fouled out. For the record, basketball teams only have five people on the court and any one time, so the officials might as well have just ejected every single person on the court, then grabbed a couple of strangers off the sidewalk and ejected them too. Finally, with only three players left who were not in Basketball Jail, Morehead State coach Ellis Johnson had to come on and play the final minutes himself. None of his players would even pass him the ball. They lost, 90-88.
3.) Awesome player single-handedly loses championship
Only several seconds remained as Georgetown trailed North Carolina by one point in the 1982 NCAA Championship Game. Talented Georgetown forward Fred Brown, who had personally won a game at the buzzer the previous year, had the ball, and he was in a position to set up a score. "Go, Fred Brown!" thought fans, as they teetered on the edges of their seats. Brown then threw a perfect pass to the wide-open James Worthy, but unfortunately Worthy was wide-open because he played for the other basketball team. "PTHBBBT!!" exclaimed fans, spitting out their drinks and plummeting off the edges of their seats. North Carolina went on to win, and every great play Fred Brown ever made was expunged from the history of basketball.
2.) Basically anything Bobby Knight ever did
Indiana coach Bob Knight had an old-school coaching philosophy, in that he prized fundamentals, and is coming to your house right now to beat you with a rake if you don't also prize fundamentals. While coaching a game against Purdue, Knight became enraged over something or other and flung a chair across the court, possibly trying to kill an official with it, for which he got thrown out of the game. He threatened a bunch of cheerleaders, and then a year later he berated an official so repeatedly that he got thrown out of the game, which didn't seem to affect his behavior much, because in 1998 he berated an official so repeatedly that he got thrown out of the game. All of this could just be the behavior of a very determined coach, although most determined coaches were never pursued for extradition to Puerto Rico for attacking a police officer.
1.) The harmonica stall
In 1948, the very good Rhode Island Rams played the less good Maine Black Bears. Realizing their lack of goodness, Maine went into a stall, which basically meant standing around with the ball and doing nothing, which you were allowed to do back then. Since he was clearly going to win, when Rhode Island coach Frank Keaney got possession back, he instructed his team to literally sit on the ball, which they did. A month later the same matchup resulted in more Maine stalling, and a clearly angry Keaney had to step up his mockery. He passed out newspapers to his bored players. He told one of them to attempt a drop-kick shot. During a particularly boring stall, he sent player Mike Santoro onto the court to play "Silent Night" on a harmonica. "This is a travesty!" exclaimed one of the refs. "No it's not, it's a harmonica!" replied Santoro. We can't make this stuff up.