With BYU out, what should Cougar fans watch for in March Madness?

BYU's early exit in the first round was disappointing, but we have plenty of reasons to keep watching in the Madness.

Dallin Hall attempts a contested layup against Duquesne
Dallin Hall attempts a contested layup against Duquesne / Jamie Squire/GettyImages

We're all disappointed with how the season ended--there's no denying that. In the least-picked 11-over-6 matchup on brackets, BYU dropped a game to a Duquesne team that finished sixth in the Atlantic 10 Conference standings. Duquesne punched the Cougars in the mouth, and I felt my fair share of March Sadness. I even came into work and announced to my coworkers: "I hate March."

I was hurt and still a little raw from the experience (I hope I wasn't too emotional while writing the game recap). But life goes on as it often tends to in trials as minuscule as these, and even though BYU will follow the example of George Michael and never dance again, we still have plenty of basketball left to distract us from work and household responsibilities.

As Rafiki advised Timon in the criminally underrated half-sequel to The Lion King, it's time for Cougar fans to "look beyond what we see". March Madness has only just begun, and here are a few reasons why you should stay tuned in.

Players with ties to Utah

Mady Sissoko
Michigan State's Mady Sissoko / Luke Hales/GettyImages

The tournament has a surprising number of players who have connections to the Beehive State. Whether they grew up in Utah, or played high school ball in a Utah high school, now that we don't have any other allegiances (unless some of you were "UConn fans the whole time", in which case have fun being the worst), we can support some of the players who are representing Utah!

For example, Mady Sissoko and his Michigan State Spartans are a 9-seed in the tournament this year. Sissoko is a Malian who played at Wasatch Academy in Mount Pleasant, Utah. Good friends with BYU's Fousseyni Traore, Sissoko named BYU as one of his final four while being recruited in 2019. Sparty just blew out their first-round matchup, Mississippi State, and will be face 1-seed North Carolina in the second round.

Rylan Jones from Olympus High School is currently rostered with the Samford University squad and even took his teammates to Crown Burger before their game in Salt Lake against Kansas. While Samford's 22-point comeback fell short--I will go to my grave arguing that the refs blew the game with the clean block that was called a foul--Jones had a great game, dishing out 9 assists and hitting some timely shots down the stretch to get 9 points. Jones previously played for Utah and Utah State before transferring to Samford in Birmingham, Alabama.

Hold Out For Your Perfect Bracket

Hahahaha, no I'm just kidding. You'll never get the perfect bracket, and no, I don't believe that you had a perfect paper bracket last year. Moving on.

Cheer for Chaos

Trey Townsend
(14) Oakland's Trey Townsend walks off the court following his team's upset win over (3) Kentucky / Tim Nwachukwu/GettyImages

This is the best part of March Madness. If you're like me (and I'm sure you are), your bracket is at the bottom of your work pool and you just don't care what happens anymore. Instead of cheering for 1-seeds, why not just cheer for the underdogs and celebrate the chaos of March?

Just yesterday, all 3 11-seeds won their matchups over 6-seeds, and New Mexico has a chance to make that a clean sweep. Many people had Kentucky in their Final Four, yet they dropped their first game against 14-seed Oakland (from Michigan, not California) behind 10 3-pointers from a former D-II player.

Heartbreaking? Maybe for a moment. But that all depends on your perspective. We have so much more March ahead of us, and it's time to start cheering for what makes this tournament so great. Three more 1-seeds still need to play their opening-round matchups with 16-seeded foes. Which double-digit seeds will make it to the tournament's second weekend? Which teams will come out of nowhere to make a run to the Final Four?

Sure, BYU let us down again, but there's no need to wallow in self-pity. The NCAA Tournament is everything great about the sport of basketball, so enjoy it!

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