March to the Verizon Center to Enjoy Some "Madness"

17 Mar
March 17, 2011

Whether your favorite sport is football, hockey or baseball, everyone agrees that the month of March is basketball season. The reason, of course, is the NCAA Division I Basketball Tournament or, as it’s more commonly known, March Madness.

Sixty-eight teams were invited to the Big Dance this year and eight of them will be heading to Washington, D.C. for the tournament’s opening round.

And while most people associate the NCAA Tournament with heading to bars or watching multiple games on their work monitor, watching in person is without a doubt worth it.

This is the first time the Verizon Center’s hosted the opening round since 2008. In 2006, they also played host to a regional final. If history holds true to form, attendees are likely to see some underdog teams that may make a deep run in the tournament.

In 2008, Xavier used its opening games in D.C. to make a run all the way to the Elite Eight. In 2006, local school George Mason played its third and fourth games of the tournament at the Verizon Center, using the hometown boost to make the school’s first Final Four.

So who is playing here on Thursday that’s worth the price of admission? Well, the games kick off with last year’s tournament darling and a local favorite.

In 2010, the Butler Bulldogs rode a No. 5 seed all the way to the championship game, losing only when a last-second half-court shot went just a bit long. This year, the team earned a No. 8 seed. At 12:40, they tip off against Old Dominion University. The ODU Monarchs, from Norfolk, Virginia, received a No. 9 seed by beating out Virginia Commonwealth University in the finals of CAA Tournament.

After that game ends, one of the tournament’s top seeds, and a favorite to make it to the Final Four, takes the court. The Pittsburgh Panthers, the Southeast Region’s No. 1 seed, take on the University of North Carolina-Asheville Bulldogs, who won a play-in game on Tuesday night. No No. 16 seed has ever beaten a No. 1 seed, so expect Pitt to play on Saturday against the winner of Butler-ODU.

Also playing on Thursday, but in a different regional, the West, is one of the tournament’s most accomplished teams ever. On Saturday night, at 7:20, the No. 3 seeded Connecticut Huskies play the No. 14 Bucknell Bison, from Pennsylvania. Two years ago, Connecticut went all the way to the Final Four. But before you assume that the Huskies will winl, it was just five years ago that Bucknell, again at No. 14, took down an accomplished No. 3 team, the Kansas Jayhawks.

Thursday’s full day of basketball closes with the No. 6 Cincinnati Bearcats taking on the No. 11 Missouri Tigers. That game starts 30 minutes after the Connecticut-Bucknell game ends.

The winners of all four games will then be back at the Verizon Center on Saturday to play, with a trip to the Sweet Sixteen on the line. Game times for those matchups will be announced on Friday.

Tickets for the tournament are still available on Ticketmaster. A ticket for any of the three sessions (Thursday afternoon, Thursday night or Saturday) starts at $84 a ticket, or just $42 per game. If you’d like to attend the whole weekend, tickets for all three sessions start at $240.

While that’s expensive, it’s a good price to pay to check out an event that only comes to town every few years.

-David

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