MILWAUKEE — CBS hired Jennifer Hudson to sing the March Madness theme song "One Shining Moment,'' asking a former American Idol finalist to celebrate the event that makes America idle.

The title of the song misses the point. The genius of the NCAA basketball tournament is in the hundreds of scattershot moments playing out concurrently in arenas from Spokane to Jacksonville, giving fans basketball whiplash and the participants a sense of déjà vu.

On Thursday, while the tournament began at other sites, the Gophers basketball team took the court at the Bradley Center to prepare for Friday's first-round matchup against Xavier, each player carrying memories of previous tournaments and yearning for his own 15 seconds of fame.

Sophomore guard Devoe Joseph remembered a Creighton player spreading his arms to mimic his school's mascot, the Bluejay, as he ran downcourt during an upset victory.

Senior forward Damian Johnson remembers Michigan star Chris Webber's fateful technical foul for calling a timeout his team didn't possess in the '93 championship game.

Junior guard Blake Hoffarber remembers Valparaiso's Bryce Drew hitting a game-winning shot to beat Mississippi in 1998.

Gopher coach Tubby Smith remembers his Tulsa team winning two games in Oklahoma City 16 years ago.

"There have been some good moments,'' Smith said. "You always go back to your first time coaching in this wonderful tournament, which is the greatest sporting event in America.''

It's certainly the most unique. While most modern-day sporting events elongate important moments with slow-motion replay, multiple camera angles and lengthy analysis, the first weekend of the NCAA tournament whipsaws from city to city, from dramatic shot to thwarted upset, making us care about games we wouldn't walk across the street to watch in November.

"What I remember is George Mason making it to the tournament,'' sophomore center Ralph Sampson III said. "I wasn't big into college sports back then, but I started hearing George Mason's name and I jumped on the bandwagon.''

George Mason, by the way, is a school; the Patriots' run to the Final Four in 2006 still stands as one of the most improbable in the history of March Madness.

Thursday, another school with two first names threatened to shred millions of brackets. Robert Morris, its fans wearing paper hats that might have been stolen from a Burger King, took No. 2-seeded Villanova to overtime before falling.

"When I was younger, I went to Minneapolis for the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 games with Villanova and Florida,'' said sophomore center Colton Iverson, who grew up in Yankton, S.D. "Seeing those guys live, that was one of my best NCAA tournament experiences.''

"My favorite memory is kind of recent,'' said junior forward Paul Carter. "It was Steph Curry, his sophomore year, coming out and shocking the nation.''

Curry was the rail-thin shooting guard who led Davidson to the Elite 8 in '08.

"My family's a whole bunch of basketball addicts -- my mom, dad, brother and sister,'' Johnson said. "So the first NCAA tournament I remember is the national championship game with Chris Webber calling the timeout.

"I was a big Michigan fan that year. I used to skip class in high school to watch the NCAA games.''

Smith was a little-known coach at Tulsa when his Hurricanes burst on the national scene. He later won a national title at Kentucky, but the best March moments aren't always the biggest.

"That was a great group of kids,'' Smith said. "We played right in Oklahoma City, beat a very good UCLA team. We were a 12 seed and they were a 5 seed, and you look up at halftime and we were up 27 or 30.

"Then we beat a good Oklahoma State team. ... That was probably as much fun as I've had in college basketball.''

Today, the Gophers begin a tournament that could occupy them for a couple of hours or a couple of weeks.

"Ever since I was little, I've been watching this tournament,'' Hoffarber said, "and dreaming of being in it.''

Jim Souhan can be heard at 10-noon Sunday on AM-1500. His Twitter name is SouhanStrib. • jsouhan@startribune.com