It’s the most wonderful time of the year

Courtesy of Luke Henne | Editor-in-Chief | My brother, Brendan (left), and I pose for a picture at the 2016 NCAA Tournament. In the picture, we’re wearing shirts from the 2015 tournament.

Luke Henne | Editor-in-Chief

March 9, 2023

I’m a traditionalist, plain and simple. I crave logic, order and structure. Change isn’t a friend of mine. I love repetition, knowing when certain dates and events will roll around.

The month of March, because of the tradition it’s created in my family, has become my favorite month of the year.

At 10 years old, back in March 2011, my dad took my brother, Brendan, and myself to Cleveland to watch college basketball games in the NCAA Tournament. I’d been to all of two basketball games in my life to that point, and I didn’t know much about the sport at all.

Nonetheless, a tradition was born.

Every year since then, with the exception of 2020, we’ve attended NCAA Tournament games in a handful of cities across the country.

I’m now double the age I was when this tradition began, yet I still find myself buying the same collectibles every single year come tournament time: a t-shirt with the logos of all 68 participating teams on it, a souvenir soda and a commemorative tournament program.

March Madness has become a national phenomenon, with individuals all over the nation filling out brackets and watching the best college basketball teams in the country pull off Cinderella runs or compete for a national championship.

For me, the tournament means a little something different.

When that calendar flips from February to March, there’s a tingle in my spine.

I start playing the NCAA March Madness theme song on loop on my phone. I go outside, where the temperature is rising and the sun is shining more often, to shoot hoops in my driveway. I get to look forward to March Madness, which is suddenly just around the corner.

Sports are, at the end of the day, sports. But they have the power to unite. To bond. To create lifelong memories.

The NCAA Tournament has done just that for my family. It’s created a memory and a tradition that my dad started with my brother and I, and that I hope to be able to pass down to my children.

It also means even more when the teams you care about are in contention.

Pitt, my childhood team, is all but guaranteed to be back in the tournament for the first time since 2016 — I was a freshman in high school at that time.

After many tumultuous seasons, the Panthers are on the doorstep of heading back to a tournament that they became a regular at the start of the century.

In fact, in 2011, we were so convinced that we’d get to see Pitt play in Cleveland (they ended up in Washington).

Some people might just see it as a calendar month where I know memories are about to be made.

With Selection Sunday coming in just a handful of days, I’m going to sit back and soak it all in. I’ll be in Columbus, Ohio, for the tournament’s opening weekend just a few days after that.

It’s an annual occurrence that began as a dad figuring out a way to bond with his two sons. In the 11 years since, it’s become a tradition that I don’t take for granted.

As CBS Sports college basketball insider Jon Rothstein frequently says, “This. Is. March.”