March Madness ~  Hoop Heaven Russell Rules

"It's hoop heaven every time I walk into an arena. The color, the spontaneity, the pageantry, and excitement all make the game I love an unbelievable thrill." ~ Dick Vitale

It's hoop heaven and March Madness as National Collegiate Athletic Association fans celebrate basketball's magical annual tournament, where 65-teams vie for a trip to the Final Four.

"Betting on the Final Four finals is chancy. But it's only money," wrote USA Today founder Al Neuharth.

One team, the one that rebounds, scores, and rises with four straight wins, will make it to the final round and reign as the National Champion.

"Basketball nirvana," described the Washington Post.

Excitement flows like sweat as the ball pounds the court. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski described every basketball season as a journey and the road to the Final Four may be the greatest trip of all...

What started in 1935 as an eight-team competition has grown with passion through the years. With avid audiences and national media coverage, the competition has become a big-time sporting event.

"When you build bridges you can keep crossing them," said Louisville's Rick Pitino, who coached Kentucky to three Final Fours, including the 1996 national championship.

East vs. South and West vs. Midwest, everyone has a shot. Automatic bids go to the Ivy League champion and winners of the 30 conference tournaments. The other 34 teams get invites based on their regular season strength (win-loss record, conference mark, and schedule).

Coach John Wooden, who led UCLA to the Final Four 12 times, said: "The most important key to achieving great success is to decide upon your goal and launch, get started, take action, move."

And move we will as we watch and cheer. The fun is with the underdogs, the Cinderella team, and the larger-than-life possibilities. The teamwork, the poetry, the drama: it is basketball at its finest. And as Texas Tech's coach Bobby Knight once observed, "You don't play against opponents, you play against the game of basketball."

Hallelujah: hoop heaven!