March with Mamadou

March 26th, 2015

March Madness is in full-effect. The first weekend –– while not as collectively crazy as some weekends we’ve had in recent years –– was still exciting. Specifically, the first day of the tournament was one of the greatest days in NCAA Tournament history, tying a record with five one-point games.


Yet, it was the day with only one upset, Friday, that caught my attention most.


Why, you may ask? My response may surprise you.


It’s not one moment. It’s not even one specific game.


The best part of the tournament so far has been the University of California Irvine’s 7-foot-6 Center Mamadou Ndiaye.


Ndiaye is a freshman for the Anteaters. He is currently the tallest player in Division I basketball, and one of the most exciting players to watch in the sport.


Despite the fact he has an incredibly limited skill set, the fact alone that he is 7-foot-6 makes every play  involving him absolutely fascinating.


UC Irvine ended up losing to  the University of Louisville by just two points. And, it killed me to see it end that way.


Ndiaye finished with only 12 points and six rebounds. But, his presence made as much of a difference as anyone I’ve seen in college basketball in years.


The Anteaters outscored the Cardinals by almost 10 points over the course of the game when Ndiaye was on the court.


And if it wasn’t for Ndiaye missing over half the season due to injury, UC Irvine would’ve been an even higher seed than the No. 13 seed they were given.


The highlight of the game was midway through the second half. Ndiaye received the ball in the post, spun and slammed down a dunk so hard it felt like I was shaking all the way in Cleveland.


Ndiaye proceeded to run down the court and slap the ground on defense as the crowd erupted.


Louisville ended up scoring on the possession, but that was irrelevant to me.


Ndiaye was blowing up on Twitter, completely changing the game –– and, hopefully, proving me right in leading UC Irvine to an upset victory.


That obviously didn’t happen. But, despite the loss, Ndiaye was my favorite memory from the first weekend of March Madness.


There’s already whispers of him going to the NBA. And, if he doesn’t leave after this year, he’ll be in the league very soon.


I hope he stays another year, because you don’t see players of his size in college basketball very often.


But more than anything, I want another March with Mamadou.