Dumb Fact Monday: March Madness 2003

This is Dumb Fact Monday, serving up random facts about basketball video games that you may or may not find interesting.

Aside from having the best worst cover of any basketball video game, NCAA March Madness 2003 was one of the most innovative and groundbreaking games for EA Sports. This is a game that I have talked up in the past, at nauseum, to anyone who was unfortunate enough to let me talk about the game, and I probably put a few people to sleep with a Podcast ramble that I have forgotten. Next to NBA Live 2003, it was one of the first simulation basketball video games I really got into, but this goes far beyond nostalgic exaggeration. Find out why by clicking to Read More, there are GFYs, too.

Just like Blacktop Mode and NBA Street, this is one of those topics for me where I get very excited and lose track of what I want to say, but bear with me. NCAA March Madness 2003 was a testing ground and technical feat, at the beginning of the PS2 generation. The game was the first EA Sports simulation basketball game to feature gameplay sliders, freestyle air (shown above), and diving for loose balls.

On top of that, the game featured a full 3D crowd. From the sideline to the ceiling, every crowd member was a 3D model, not even NBA 2K14 on PC can make that claim, nevermind any of the PS2 generation NBA or NCAA games. The game even had depth of field blurring effects, which didn’t return for an EA Sports game until the Xbox 360 came out. While their beautifully animated ‘wave’ was not captured in my video, you can see some of the needed shortcuts to get all the NCAA teams into the game, such as the same recolored numbers and positions for all team uniforms. Still, the game had mascots and create-a-school, along with a fully customizable Dynasty-esk mode.

Of course, I haven’t gotten to the best part about this game, breaking the backboard. The game featured a momentum meter that would show up in other NCAA games, and NBA Live 07, but in NCAA March Madness 2003, if you maxed out that meter and got the ball to a strong dunker, crystal rain.

Since this is Dumb Fact Monday, I am going to leave it there. This is just one of those topics where I could go on forever, I’ll try and spare you with what I’ve already said, and that the gameplay was a mixture of the fun NBA Live 2003 style, but toned down to some kind of realism. Anyway, all of the footage shown in those animated “GFYs” are from this YouTube Video I created years ago. I hope you enjoyed!

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April 15, 2014 11:54 pm

Appreciate the retrospective as the March Madness series wasn’t released outside of North America, hence I wasn’t covering it and wasn’t aware that it was being used to test out these concepts for NBA Live. I’m certainly glad that some good ideas were shared with the Live series, though.