It’s March! You may have noticed a sudden boom in tournaments in the last few weeks, and that’s not a coincidence. They’re happening all over the web. School Library Journal is hosting the Battle of the Kids’ Books (it says “kids,” but it includes YA!). Paper Lantern Lit is hosting Swoon Madness, where readers vote for the most swoon-worthy guys in YA literature. The Morning News has the Tournament of Books. There’s Middle Earth March Madness, Star Wars March Madness, and a sci-fi TV tournament. Keep looking and you’ll find tournaments on bad (or good? so bad it’s good?) celebrity fashion, teen movies, and, I am not kidding you, hot dogs.
Behind all of these tournaments, though, is the daddy of all March Madness: the NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament. For the next three weeks, people all over the country will be talking basketball as the 68 best college teams face off in a single elimination tournament. The tournament ends with the championship game in Atlanta on April 8, but not before the initial group is narrowed from 68 teams to the Sweet Sixteen, the Elite Eight, then Final Four. The tournament has been called the best sporting event in America; last year nearly 6 million people submitted brackets on ESPN.com. Basically, it’s a big deal. The first big round of tournament kicks off with 16 games today and 16 tomorrow. Brackets have been filled out and submitted to pools all over the country. Basketball fans are wearing their lucky t-shirts/hats/socks. In some places, like my hometown, whole communities will turn on their TVs to watch their teams play in what’s fondly known as the Big Dance. (Go Zags!)
Luckily, YA fans don’t have to be left out of all the fun. And (no offense, swoon-worthy guys of YA), we’re not stuck just voting for our favorite lovable characters. Below, check out a list of fiction and nonfiction titles about college basketball and the NCAA tournament. After all, you need something read between the games, right?
Last Shot: A Final Four Mystery by John Feinstein
Last Shot is the first in a series of mysteries set a variety of sporting events and follows two young reporters, winners of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association’s contest for aspiring journalists, behind the scenes at the Final Four in New Orleans. When the reporters, Steven and Susan, are using their press passes to explore the arena, they overhear a plan to blackmail one of the players and throw the final game. With less than two days until the game, the clocks is ticking as they try figure out who’s doing the blackmailing — and why.
The Final Four by Paul Volponi
It’s the semi-finals of the NCAA tournament; there are only four teams left in the championship. In the first game of the Final Four: the top-ranked Michigan State Spartans against the Troy Trojans. Over the course of a single game, as the scrappy Trojans struggle to out-score the powerhouse Spartans, the very different lives and goals of four players are revealed.
More interested in true stories about college ball? Here are some great nonfiction reads about college basketball and the NCAA tournament.
The Last Great Game: Duke vs. Kentucky and the 2.1 Seconds that Changed Basketball
One of the greatest shots in the tournament’s history is the game-winning jump shot taken by Duke’s Christian Laettner in the last seconds of a Final Four game between Duke and Kentucky.
It’s such a famous shot, in fact, that sports writer Gene Wojciechowski wrote an entire book devoted to the game. In a series of essays, he looks at everything that lead up to those spectacular final seconds. It’s an in-depth look at two great seasons, two legendary coaches, and some amazing young athletes.
The Last Shot: City Streets, Basketball Dreams
In gritty, urban Coney Island, four high school boys think of basketball as their ticket to a college scholarship and a better life. They have talent and dedication on their side, but navigating a troubled public education system and the big money world of college basketball recruiting is a difficult, and for some, impossible task.
— Emily Calkins, currently reading Shadow and Bone and rooting hard for Gonzaga to go all the way!
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