Get ready for the Final Four madness

Ron Chenoy/US Presswire

It has been a year since Nneka Ogwumike competed with Stanford at Final Four in Denver.

The season everyone waits for every year brings so much excitement, expectation and exhilaration! Since we've all known, March is the time for one thing only: madness. From fans to coaches to referees to players, March Madness is infectious. In my personal opinion, the madness begins during the conference tournament. Once conference games draw to an end, anxiety is at an all-time high. From here on out it's "do or die" for every team. Whether you went undefeated in conference or are fighting to punch a ticket to the Big Dance, once games become "win or go home" anything can happen and all can change. The uncertainty is gripping.

As a Stanford alum, I was blessed to have been able to experience four times what thousands of athletes only dream of -- the Final Four. From St. Louis to San Antonio and twice again from Indianapolis to Denver, every city was different; yet each offered the same once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Now, I could EASILY sit here and dwell on the negatives of the obvious and formulate what could have been, but what's the use. How crazy would I sound complaining about going to the Final Four not once, not twice, not thrice, but FOUR times?! With this, I can only reflect and reminisce on these experiences of a lifetime.

As a team with Final Four potential, you evolve under the vigilant eye of the tournament. The madness changes everything and everyone. The adrenaline and thrill heighten your senses. Every practice can't come sooner, every game can't last longer, and every day can't mean much more. The aura in the atmosphere is never negative; you relish in the madness.

Everyone, at one point or another, will mention the importance of winning and playing well, amongst other clichés. These, of course, are vital to succeeding in the tournament, but I find true value in understanding your identity. You must know who you are, what you're doing, and why you're doing it. When you focus on such things in the midst of all the madness, nothing can ever take away the game from you, win or lose. If your passion remains after it all, you can truly say you left all you had to offer on the hardwood.

As a seasoned veteran of the Final Four, I, of course, have been encumbered by this year's tournament. The unpredictability in this year's tournament brought "March Madness" to a whole different level. This year should be especially interesting as we are seeing different team identities. Louisville is bringing the heat with their unyielding motivation and amazing guard play from Shoni Schimmel. Cal, representing the West very well, is a mentally tough team that never goes down without a fight, especially when it comes to the rebounding machine Gennifer Brandon. Notre Dame's will to win has allowed them to glide forward as they are led by my girl, Sky. And lastly, but certainly not least, UConn continues a legacy that few can compare with a lot of help from Ms. Mosqueda-Lewis.

This time only comes once a year, so cheer for your team, represent your favorite player, and, most importantly, support women's hoops! You'd be crazy if you missed it all, but you'd be even crazier if you didn't Get Mad!