Welcome to the Big Dance
Fans of college basketball know that the pinnacle of the sport comes in the form of the NCAA Tournament, affectionately dubbed “March Madness.” Sixty-four teams from across the country vye for the right to call themselves the best of the year, cutting down their winning net and holding the trophy aloft in victory. But what about the moments before the end? Before the winners (and losers) have been identified and the pressure is still on?
Volponi gives readers an insight into one of these moments, spanning the entirety of The Final Four across overtime in one semifinal matchup between the Troy University Trojans and the Michigan State Spartans, “recreating” the fabled Trojan War for contemporary readers. Four players are the focus of the storyline: Malcolm McBride, the self-confident “one and done” freshman whose skills are skyrocketing him to the NBA after his first year; Roko Bacic, a Croatian Trojan who moved to the United States to escape the perils of his country and to get the opportunity to play college basketball; Crispin Rice, Bacic’s teammate who recently proposed to his girlfriend Hope on live television and is subsequently feeling the pressure of that proposal; and Michael Jordan, McBride’s second-string teammate who has lived under the shadow of better players (particularly one who shares his namesake) for his entire life.
The structuring of this novel is fast-paced, bouncing between play-by-play commentary of the action on the court and flashbacks molding the backstory for the four young stars. Each one’s past is unique and wholly believable, from the uber-cocky McBride’s rough upbringing to Bacic’s emigration to the States. Perhaps what’s more interesting, though, is Volponi’s commentary on the state of college basketball and its players (through McBride’s blunt opinions on the matter). NCAA rulings for its players has always been cause for a little bit of controversy, and while Volponi doesn’t attempt to fix these issues, he addresses them in a way that shows the players themselves are fully aware of their place in the NCAA hierarchy.
College basketball fans will definitely find something of worth with The Final Four, but newcomers can also get sucked into the frenetic pace of college basketball through Volponi’s effective writing. Volponi is the author of numerous other works, such as Rikers High, Response, and The Hand You’re Dealt.