Recently, some students have been entering their classes after lunch, sweaty, tired and decked out in Nike headbands and shorts. This is a result of ASB’s annual March Madness tournament, in which students form teams of four and compete against each other for NBA jerseys of each player’s choice.
The teams compete in a single-elimination tournament. Twenty-five students from all grades are participating in the tournament, with the first games played on Feb. 28 and the final game is played at the end of March.
The event was mainly organized by ASB, as well as a few other members of the leadership class, including senior class officer Gautham Arunkumar.
“The goal of this event is to bring together people of different groups and skill levels and put them in the same environment,” Arunkumar said. “Whether you're a varsity starter or a Mystery Club enthusiast, we have provided a medium to express the love of basketball.”
Students like senior Kushagro Bhattacharjee decided to participate in the event because it gives them an opportunity to express their love of the sport.
“I play basketball a lot in my free time, and March Madness is a time for me to play in a competitive setting,” Bhattacharjee said. “I've always participated in the tournament during past years because it's just something fun I can do with my friends.”
In order to fix many of the issues discovered in last year’s tournament, such as having “super teams” that dominated everyone else, new rules were implemented this year to promote fairer competition and to try and lessen the power of these dominant teams, usually filled with SHS basketball team players.
For one, no two starters on any school basketball team, whether it be freshman, JV or varsity, are allowed on the same March Madness team. In addition, no team can include more than two school basketball players at all, regardless of whether or not they are a starter.
“We thought these rules would even the playing field and just create a more enjoyable experience for everyone,” Arunkumar said.
This year’s bracket was completely randomized as usual, but many participants were upset with their position in the tournament. As a result, some teams attempted to find loopholes around the rules, which gave the tournament administrators a variety of challenges to deal with. Many teams attempted to change their matchups or to update their roster after the tournament started to gain an edge, according to ASB Board Representative Nathon Chin.
“We had to do a lot to make sure no team has an unfair advantage,” Chin said. “There were lots of issues regarding ethics, and we just had to make the best decisions we could.”
Nonetheless, after overcoming the initial challenges, the tournament proceeded fairly, Chin said.
The annual tradition has been anticipated since the beginning of the school year, and has evolved into something more than the conventional sports tournament.
“So many people from all corners of Saratoga High participate in the event that it brings a sense of unity to the school during the month of March,” Arunkumar said. “It’s more than just a fun event to play in — it’s an opportunity for anyone to play and to form new friendships.”