While the calendar is still a few days away from turning to March, the madness is already in the air.
The high school regular seasons are all but in the books and teams are competing in tournament action with boys at the sectional level and girls moving through districts this week.
In local college news, the Shawnee State women's basketball team is preparing for what should be a third-consecutive top-two seed in the NAIA National tournament, while navigating AMC tournament play. The Bears will be in action for a tourney semifinal game against Walsh this weekend in Portsmouth.
The Cavaliers beat SSU in Canton earlier this season, but the Bears avenged that loss with a 29-point win February 13. The game will be at 1 p.m. Saturday afternoon.
Ohio State's basketball team picked up a big win over Penn State on Wednesday night, putting them in position for at least a second place finish in the Big Ten. If Michigan State rebounds from a loss to the Buckeyes to defeat Purdue on Sunday, we'll have a three-way tie atop the conference with just one week of action to go before the conference tournament.
Kentucky is continuing its best season of this century and is enjoying a two-game lead over Vanderbilt in the SEC. West Virginia, ranked No. 8 nationally, is only third place in the Big East but will be a team no one wants to play when the conference tournament rolls around.
Other smaller regional schools are also enjoying success as the season winds down. Marshall, with star freshman center Hassan Whiteside, is currently in fourth place in the Conference USA standings and, with a couple wins in the C-USA Tournament, could punch its ticket to the big dance.
Louisville (seventh place in the Big East), Xavier (third in the Atlantic 10) and Kent State (first place, MAC East) all look like teams that will be dancing come March.
As for local athletes in D-I, we all expect to see Clay graduate Cam Thoroughman in the tournament once again with WVU and Wheelersburg grad Cam Miller could be dancing, or playing in the National Invitational Tournament with Marshall.
Western Carolina, featuring South Webster graduate Brigham Waginger, currently sits in second place in the Southern Conference's North Division and could win the SoCon Tournament for a spot in the national tournament or wait for an invite to the NIT.
A lot can change in the next couple weeks for these Division I schools. Teams will move up and down the ranks and some bubbles will burst before the best event in sports, the opening of the D-I college basketball tournament.
If you've not experienced much March basketball before, or just haven't been around the game much this season, tune in to a few games on TV, or get out to some high school postseason action or SSU's conference tournament game and see what you've been missing.<br>
Many call it "madness" but I also call it the best basketball of the year. You won't want to miss it.