It’s that time of year again. I’m not talking about spring break or the blooming of trees. I’m talking about the Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament, possibly the most jam-packed two-and-a-half week stretch of any sport during the course of the year.
It’s called March Madness for short, and anything can happen—anyone can be a hero.
The madness begins on Thursday with first seeded teams Kentucky and Kansas squaring off against their primary opponents. The next day will feature the other two top seeds, Syracuse and Duke, two hard working teams with title dreams.
Not only the large, well-known schools will make it to the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight. In fact, look for some unknowns to pry their way in with good conditioning and lockdown defenses.
One of these Cinderella teams is Murray State. The Racers went 30-4 this year, and drew a 13 seed in the tournament. Although they have a tough first round match-up in Vanderbilt, if they can get by the Commodores they have a legitimate chance to advance.
Another team to watch is Louisville. Lower seeded than usual, the Cardinals can rely on the expertise of their coach Rick Pitino and the great guard play of Edgar Sosa to ride them past the California Bears. Don’t expect them to stop there, however. If Louisville manages to pull off the upset vs. Cal, Pitino’s squad would potentially have to play Duke—a game that they could, in reality, win with a great showing.
Also watch out for Siena, coming into the tournament as a 13, first pitted against a Robbie Hummel-less Purdue. Look for an upset here and see whether Siena can drive themselves past the first two rounds.
Of the four top seeded teams, I think only one will fail to make it to the Final Four.
Kansas is a well coached, hard working team, led by experienced senior Sheron Collins, and should roll past anyone.
Kentucky, led by John Wall, a freshman who seems bound for the NBA, should have no issue getting to the final round, especially with a great coach in John Calipari.
Duke, though not as well rounded as the previous two, has their “big three”: Kyle Singler, Jon Scheyer, and Nolan Smith. Also, Duke is better on the boards than they have been in years past—plus, don’t forget Mike Krzyzewski.
That leaves Syracuse. The Orange are literally limping into the tournament with their prized big man Arinze Onuaku hurt. They have lost two straight games.
If Gonzaga can win its first round game, the Bulldogs would square off against Syracuse in the second round, with a chance—a solid one—to knock them off for a major upset. If Orange can survive that threat, however, look for them to go down in the Elite Eight against second seeded Kansas State.
Overall, it should be a Kansas-Kentucky final. They are the two best teams in the country with the two best records. Look for John Wall and his supporting cast to knock down the Jayhawk defense and find themselves national champions. You heard it here first.
And you can hear it all here throughout the tournament, as I follow the action. Check back to find out if my predictions come true!
PHOTO: The University of North Carolina Tar Heels celebrate after defeating
the Michigan State Spartans in the NCAA men's basketball national
championship basketball game in Detroit, Michigan, on April 6, 2009.
(Photo: Mike Segar/Reuters)