When I looked at the calendar a month or so ago to find the start of the 2008 NCAA Tournament, I was surprised to find that it coincided with the Catholic Church’s Holy Week.
Being a Catholic myself that meant that I wouldn’t spend March 23 simply watching eight games determining the second half of the sweet 16. I’d spend it celebrating Easter, only the biggest day of the year in the church.
Schedule conflictions and religious convictions aside, March 23 seemed like a very early date for Easter to me, so I did some research and found that I was right. Dating back to 1875, March 23 is the earliest date that Easter has been celebrated. And 2008 will mark just the second time it’s happened. Easter also fell on March 23, 1913.
That means it’s been 95 years since Easter came this early! World War I hadn’t even happened yet, let alone March Madness. Back then, the NCAA didn’t have a tournament to crown its champion. In 1913, Navy was voted national champions by the Helms Foundation after posting a 9-0 record—for the entire season. Today it takes six games just to win the NCAA Tournament.
In the past, several Final Fours have been played on the Saturday before Easter with the championship following on Monday. But only twice in the past 30 years have teams played NCAA Tournament games on Easter Sunday.
In 1989, Illinois beat Syracuse 89-86 and Duke defeated Georgetown 85-77 in two regional final games held on Easter.
The most recent games played on Easter also came in the regional finals of the 2005 NCAA Tournament. Michigan State edged Kentucky 94-88 in two overtimes and North Carolina defeated Wisconsin 88-82.
With Easter coinciding with second round action in this year’s NCAA Tournament, a record 16 NCAA teams will be competing on Easter. So after church and a search for your Easter basket, basketball won’t be hard to find. Celebrate the holiday with friends and family and the most exciting event in sports.
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