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Keeler: March brings best of season

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Tommy Keeler

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The winds are picking up and, ever so slightly, so are the temperatures -- signs that March is finally upon us.

It's definitely one of my favorite months of the year.

For any college basketball fan, this is the best time of the year. March Madness is the best playoff system in all of sports. However, the next two weeks are almost as good as the NCAA Tournament itself.

It's kind of like a mini-March Madness.

For the next two weeks there will be many, many conference tournaments showcased on TV. And there's nothing quite like it. Who doesn't love watching the final of the Big South tournament?

There will be upsets, lots of tension and pressure-filled games. For some teams, conference tournaments are their only way of being invited to the "Big Dance," while more prominent teams simply need to have a good showing in their tournaments to punch their ticket.

The thing I love most about the conference tournaments is there will always be lots of drama. And there's nothing in sports like drama.

Whether it's a player hitting a buzzer-beater from half-court, or a team that rallies from a 20-point deficit in the second half to pull off a shocking upset, there's always an electricity in the air this time of year.

Of course, one of the best parts about the conference tournament weeks is that there's generally basketball on all day and night. If you're a basketball fanatic like I am, it's like paradise.

You can wake up in the morning and catch an early game, then channel surf from game to game for most of the day. And the last of the games come on around midnight, just when I'm catching my second wind. Unfortunately, that little thing called work can sometimes get in the way of enjoying a day full of games.

There are always great match-ups in the bigger conferences like the Big East, ACC and Big 12. It's intriguing to watch some of the best teams in the country go at it in just the quarterfinals of their tournament.

I can still remember the six-overtime game played between Syracuse and Connecticut two years ago. I somehow watched the entire game (although I admit I got in a few power naps here and there). Syracuse, of course, won the game 127-117. For three hours and 46 minutes they played and played and played.

It was probably the greatest game I've ever watched, and it happened not in the NCAA Tournament, but in a conference tournament.

As great as the tournaments in the power conferences can be, the ones in the smaller leagues can be just as exciting.

You don't often get to see the early rounds of some of the smaller conference tournaments, but the finals are usually so entertaining that it doesn't matter.
There's nothing like knowing your season is on the line, and for most of the small teams this is their one shining moment. It's their one chance to showcase themselves in front of a national audience. Of course, if they win they'll get another chance in the "Big Dance."
One of the other great aspects of the conference tournaments is that you get a chance to see many of the NCAA Tournament participants before the tournament begins.
It's one last chance to observe how teams are playing as they enter March Madness. Let's be honest, we all want to know who's getting hot and who's not so we can try to win whatever NCAA pool we enter.

No matter how you slice it, there's a lot of great things about the next two weeks as we get ready for the best three weeks in all of sports.

Perhaps the worst thing about this time of year is that many of us are sitting on our couches watching basketball, instead of actually going out and getting real exercise.
However, for this wonderful five-week period, I think I can live with that.

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