NCAA March Madness 2005 is a classic, but it’s often a step behind NBA Live in the basketball video game discussion. On the surface, the two games look and feel very similar, but these features in each game are different enough to celebrate each as its own unique thing. Today I’ll take a closer look at March Madness and the features that I love about the game
Floor General Playcaller
This feature was cool because it allowed the user to call coherent and awesome set plays, which would often lead to good situations for buckets. A lot of basketball games have problems with off-ball player movement, especially if you are one player controlling five people. In NBA 2K, sometimes calling the perfect play isn’t feasible because the shot clock is so short that by the time you find the right play you have 12 seconds to wait until the AI gets in position. It’s hard to do unless you’re automatically running freelance sets or having the computer call plays for you.
March Madness gave us a simplified and fun playbook that was customizable from team to team.
You could only call six sets during play, but these sets had a lot of wrinkles and options that allowed those six plays to seem like 25. You could also even dig a little bit deeper into your playbook out of a timeout.
We don’t talk enough about how broken recruiting was in this game. Now usually when something is broken it makes the game less fun. This time, however, the broken mechanics make the game epic. No matter what school you chose, you could convince the top recruits to commit to you in droves. These recruits were often really good and could turn your roster from this:
... into this:
It only takes a year into a dynasty to turn the game into a five-on-five version of NBA Jam. The longer you play, the better the players get, which gives you an entirely new game experience. The recruiting stats all seem random as hell too, which ironically meshes well with how basketball is played now. Sometimes your best shot blocker on the team will be 6′4″. Other times your best passer will be 7′0″. This game was ahead of its time.
Classic and All-time teams
A key component of this game is its attention to and spotlight on college basketball history. It featured a mode called Pontiac College Classics, which puts you right into the heart of many iconic college moments. When you won a College Classic moment you would successfully unlock the two teams involved:
I’ve already written extensively about the College Classics in the past, so I’ll move on to All-Time teams. The All-Time teams were unlockable in the Campus Store once you’d earned enough campus points throughout the game.
In addition to some All-Time teams, you also had special college basketball teams from certain years that weren’t in the College Classic mode. Some examples are ‘93 Michigan, ‘56 San Francisco, and ‘72 UCLA.
Some of these teams have legends like Tim Dunc- I mean C #21:
Sha- I mean C #33 and more! It was fun going through each roster and trying to figure out who is who. Some are obvious and some take a little more guesswork due to jersey numbers being different sometimes.
In this game, you can play as the mascots. That’s it that the entire thing. Look at this tree:
It’s seen some SHIT.
On my Twitch Channel, I’ve been doing Mascot Madness which is an annual tournament of mascots playing basketball! It’s a fun time!
Anyway, these are just a few of the many features of the game that I just love. I could talk about the broadcasting crew, the band covers of popular songs, and the unique crowd environments but then this would be a 5,000-word review. If you still have your old Xbox or PS2 and can find the game online/for sale then I’m all for you getting it.