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NCAA March Madness 2004 was the 2003 installment in the NCAA March Madness series. It was released on November 17, 2003 for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox. Former Syracuse player Carmelo Anthony was featured on the cover. Commentary is done by Brad Nessler and "Mr. College Basketball" Dick Vitale as he is introduced in the game. This was the first time the player could pick his or her favorite school and the menus would be stylized in the school's colors and a cheerleader or mascot will appear on the main menu whilst playing the school's fight song. The game plays similar to NBA Live 2004.
The game allows the player to pick their favorite school and run a college basketball dynasty for 30 seasons and lead them to a National Champions. The player can play as a prestigious school like the Duke Blue Devils or a school of lower prestige and bring them into the national spotlight. The game allows the player to create his or her own school, but with limited options. The game features all of the major tournaments including the NCAA Tournament and Maui Invitational and a Frat Party Mode which is a four team tournament for 4-players. Other modes include mascot game, where the player can play as a school's mascot. As well as Dickie V integration where Dick Vitale offers his take on the features of the game and gives gamers hints in Dynasty Mode on recruiting. The player can also import their draft class to NBA Live 2004, however the players are given fictional names after they are imported.
Players are not given names in the game because of rights of the NCAA to its players, to allow this the NCAA would have to pay the players. Players can still give the players names and some players are recognizable, such as 2004 NBA Draft prospects Josh Childress(Stanford) and Ben Gordon and Emeka Okafor (Connecticut).
Extras in the game feature the cameos of NBA rookies Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, and Kirk Hinrich and rowdy college fans and NCAA head coaches saying "EA Sports, It's In The Game". For added realism, NCAA head basketball coaches offer defensive and offensive strategies.
The game was the first in the series to feature freestyle moves and separate buttons for dunks and layups and the ability to perform an alley-oop. Also the player can make decisions in mid-air and make adjusted shots.
Critics praised the new features of the game and the addition of tournament modes to gameplay. Many gamers complained about Dick Vitale's integration stating "if you are annoyed by Dick Vitale, don't pick this game up." It was praised as a "good, overall basketball game".