The thing I love most about March Madness is the eternalness of names.
With one win … with one breathtaking performance, anonymity turns into permanence. It’s why I know of Mouse McFadden and Brett Blizzard. It’s why I know Harold Arceneaux and Keith Smart. It’s why I know of Taylor Coppenrath and T.J. Sorrentine.
If you’re a man or woman who loves college basketball, you grasp exactly what I’m saying.
There are players who stick in your heads, even though they now wander the earth as uniquely tall accountants and trainers and dentists and coaches. Maybe you wouldn’t recognize them by face. Or even by first name. But, inevitably, a spark hits, and you think, “Holy shit! You’re the guy who hit that fadeaway with three seconds left …
“You’re the guy!”
Jairus Lyles is now the guy.
Entering tonight’s game between No. 1 Virginia and No. 16 UMBC, I knew, nothing of Lyles. I didn’t know that he attended DeMatha High. Didn’t know he averaged 18.9 ppg. Didn’t know that he’s 6-foot-2 and 175 pounds and transferred from Virginia Commonwealth after having also briefly attended Robert Morris. I literally had no awareness of Jairus Lyles’ presence amongst our species on the planet earth.
But now, following the Retrievers’ 74-54 shocker over the Cavs, Lyles’ name is certain to be remembered. It matters not whether UMBC wins its next game against Kansas State, or falls by 20. Hell, it doesn’t even matter if Lyles goes on to a 10-year career with the Lakers, or a 30-year career as a hedge fund manager, or 40 years of collecting garbage.
Nope—his performance tonight (28 points, often on one healthy leg) is the stuff of absolute March legend.
His name is written.