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March is made for basketball

Most sports writers love sports. I certainly do.

Whether it’s football, basketball or golf, I find enjoyment in following the leagues, conferences and tours in which the elite compete.

I am compelled by the unscripted drama and unrivaled passion characteristic of athletics. In my opinion, few other activities provide equal entertainment value.

That is why I love March and, specifically, March Madness.

The NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament, which shifted into full gear on Thursday, is among the most intriguing events in sports.

Sixty-four teams representing colleges and universities — both macroscopic and microscopic in size — duke it out in a six-round, single-elimination competition.

There are blue bloods and new bloods, contenders and pretenders. Dramatic endings are guaranteed. Upsets are expected.

What’s not to love?

During the tournament’s opening weekend, which runs until Sunday, basketball games can be streamed online or viewed on TV most hours of the day, along with a portion of the night.

The first game Thursday, which featured Oklahoma and Rhode Island, began 15 minutes after noon. Thursday’s final tilt, pitting Florida against St. Bonaventure, didn’t end until midnight.

The pair of contests bookended an exhilarating day that consisted of 15 total matchups. That’s 600 minutes of basketball, not including overtime periods. Each second counted for the teams involved.

In the tournament, there are no second chances or do-overs. Seasons hang by a thread once the game tips off.

Alabama and Auburn fans know this well. That’s because both teams clinched a spot in the tournament for the first time in a long time. The Crimson Tide last went dancing in 2012; the Tigers tournament drought dated to 2003.

It is incredibly exciting for the football-inclined state of Alabama to have its two flagship universities in the country’s premier college basketball competition. No matter how long or how short their respective stays are, their presence is a sign of progress.

The two schools join a group of 62 others that already have begun to fight for their postseason lives.

Over the next few weeks, the field will dwindle steadily until only one team remains.

Maybe North Carolina will repeat as champion. Maybe Gonzaga will redeem itself after last year’s near miss. Or maybe a fresh face will make a run.

On display will be unscripted drama and unrivaled passion as teams jockey to advance. That’s what I love about March Madness. That’s why I love sports.

Sam Chandler is the sports editor at The Valley Times-News. He can be reached by phone at 334-644-8106 or by email at sam.chandler@valleytimes-news.com.