Harvard’s men’s basketball team never won a National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament game. In fact, they had only qualified three time in the school’s history. That changed on March 21, when the 14th-ranked Crimson stunned third place New Mexico. Havard was led by Quebec’s Laurent Rivard, whose 17 points and key three-point shooting down the stretch helped to ice the victory. It was, in a word, madness.
The presence of Canadian athletes in the field has led local media outlets to ramp up coverage of the month-long March Madness tournament but, in the halls of Concordia, student interest was decidedly less enthusiastic.
“March Madness? Never heard of it,” was the number one response, followed closely by “March what?”
There are exceptions, though. Recent biology graduate and current Arts and Science Federation of Associations office manager Sofiane Guend follows the tournament closely and fills out a prediction bracket each year. Guend hails from Madison, Wisconsin, and says that down south “everyone watches it, everyone fills out a bracket.”
When asked what the expected response would be if a typical Wisconsinite were questioned about the meaning of March Madness, he quickly replied, “You wouldn’t even have to ask. They’d already be talking about it.”
Canadian university sports are markedly less hyped. According to Guend, media coverage is at the heart of the contrast. While televisions on and around campus are dominated by the Habs, the story is different in the U.S., where “the games are always on, wherever there’s a T.V..”
American-born students aren’t the only ones who catch basketball fever in March. Fourth-year linguistics student and Quebec native Curtish Mesher grew up watching the 64-team tournament.
“I used to get University of Michigan football games on T.V. from some American channel as a kid, so I watch Wolverine games when I can,” he said. “Plus, I have a friend who is a big Kentucky fan.”
Although media coverage played a role in his development as a basketball fan, he provided another reason for local fans’ apathy towards basketball
“[It’s] not that hyped a thing here in Montreal, probably because basketball isn’t a very big sport in Quebec,” he said. “It’s definitely a presence. There are definitely still fans that are super into it, just not in the same numbers as elsewhere.”
When Laurent Rivard and Harvard pulled off their historic first-round upset on last week, they did so in front of 14, 345 fans, many of whom stormed the court after the final buzzer sounded.
Around here, sadly, we measure attendance like we order our doughnuts: by the dozen. If the Canadian Interuniversity Sport basketball championship hopes to bridge the gap with its American counterpart, it needs to start with coverage and hype. How about a CIS final 8 basketball bracket to go along with your March Madness pool, next year?
Until the coverage is provided — and the hype generated — Guend and Mesher will remain the exception rather than the rule. March basketball simply is not a topic that is close to the hearts Concordia students. Most would prefer to talk about how we got 26 centimetres of snow on the first day of spring. Now that’s madness.