NCAA March Madness 2000 does so many things right that even video-game basketball fans who have never cared about college sports should give it a try. The control, AI, and overall presentation is top-notch. EA Sports has completely outdone itself with March Madness 2000, since the game offers more options and features than even NBA Live 2000.
The game offers so much for fans of college ball. For starters, it has more than 150 Division I teams, 16 women's team, plus 20 of the greatest college basketball teams ever, including the '64 UCLA Bruins, the '83 North Carolina Tar Heels, and the '91 UNLV Runnin' Rebels. In all, the game features more than 200 teams, each of which has specific playbooks, styles, and fight songs. You can take any of the teams through the tournament or go for a quick game. The game's dynasty mode lets you take the same team through several seasons, recruit players from all over the country, and red shirt your players. There's an overwhelming number of other team-management features, the most notable being the sheer number of plays you can call.
One of the greatest things about March Madness 2000 is how you can adjust just about every single setting - from the game's overall speed to the difficulty of making a basket. Being able to tweak so many of these settings may seem like overkill to casual fans, but for hard-core basketball fans it means being able to set up the experience exactly how you want it.
Playing the game feels similar to last year's title, although the addition of what EA Sports calls "dynamic ball control" really changes how you the game. Moves like crossovers, stutter steps, and spins that had been assigned to one button have been broken up so that you can perform any specific move at any moment. This, of course, takes some time to get used to, but when you do, the level of control over the ball handler is unprecedented.
The AI of the computer-controlled teams makes mistakes and misses shots on the default difficulty. But on the game's hardest setting the computer makes sound decisions - but it isn't perfect. Every so often you'll see the computer run out of bounds for no good reason, regardless of the difficulty setting. Either way, March Madness 2000 breaks the tradition of making a game harder by simply letting more baskets fall for the computer.
March Madness 2000's presentation is of the highest quality. The game's frame rate runs at a nice, consistent 30 frames per second. Player models vary enough to give everyone a little bit of a different look so that the centers have taller, bigger bodies without looking like giants. All the basketball courts look fairly accurate, with all of the home-team's garb hanging from rafters and tables.
In the audio department, March Madness has so much going on that if you crank the volume up loud enough it really does sound like a college game. The crowd has a constant droning roar that explodes into cheers and stomps when the home team scores. Plus, various fight songs erupt, as well as general big-band samplings. Dick Vitale, if you're a fan of his style, really adds excitement to the game, although his "Awesome, baby" gets old after awhile.
Overall, if you're a fan of college hoops, you really can't go wrong with March Madness 2000. The game controls well, looks good, and, most importantly, it's a whole lot of fun. For fans of last year's March Madness who are wondering if this year's title is different enough from last year's to warrant a purchase, the answer is yes, it most definitely is.