Sports fans everywhere, wake up from your post-Super Bowl hibernation because it’s March and the college ballers are prepared to give us upsets, buzzer-beaters and plenty of madness. Unlike their millionaire counterparts in the NBA, these players scrap for loose balls and compete for 40 minutes, not just to stuff their wallets with green.
March Madness bracketology
Sports fans everywhere, wake up from your post-Super Bowl hibernation because it’s March and the college ballers are prepared to give us upsets, buzzer-beaters and plenty of madness.
Unlike their millionaire counterparts in the NBA, these players scrap for loose balls and compete for 40 minutes, not just to stuff their wallets with green. This is exactly why avid and casual aficionados catch the college hoops fever, making it truly the sweetest couple weeks on the sports calendar.
Let’s take a look at what this year has in store for March Madness.
A “Cardinal” story
The most compelling storyline the tourney has to offer is always the underdog squad that makes a run at the shiny glass of the Siemens Trophy. Last year, the 11th-seeded George Mason held this distinct honor, rallying all the way to a Final Four game before Florida ousted them.
After slipping in the back door, Stanford is my pick to sport this year’s glass slipper. I realize the Cardinals aren’t a typical underestimated team, but, also seeded at No. 11, the sensational Lopez brothers and comrades aren’t expected to make a splash.
First up for Stanford is a date with another Cardinals team in Louisville. Rick Pitino, a coach who has danced in March a time or two, will have his players thoroughly prepared for their matchup with Stanford. But, if his team continues to rain three-pointers as ugly as they have, you can count them out. They heaved up the second most shots from beyond the arc in the Big East, with 716, but finished with a pedestrian 33.2 percent mark.
Once Stanford bounces Louisville, they will play the winner of the Texas A&M vs. Pennsylvania game. With a mixture of quality perimeter and post play, the Cardinals should move past either without the slightest of strains. Although, this will be the school’s last taste of victory, as Memphis’ high-flying antics will be too much for them to advance past the Sweet 16.
Final Four fixtures
In a year where as many as seven teams were considered Final Four locks, No. 1 seeds will be a rarity in Atlanta. Instead, it will be a gathering of mostly No. 2 seeds.
Florida easily has the most talent in the nation, but with the likes of Maryland, Wisconsin and Oregon looming, Gator Nation will have trouble advancing out of the Midwest Region. I like Wisconsin and Big 10 player of the year Alando Tucker’s chances of cutting down the nets in this region and upsetting the defending champs.
After just narrowly defeating Texas in the Big 12 title game, Kansas’ streak of good fortune will not escort them all the way to Atlanta. Despite losing their final two contests of the season, UCLA will make John Wooden proud by advancing to the Final Four from the comfort of the West Region.
Led by conference player of the year Jeff Green and seven-footer Roy Hibbert, Georgetown stomped Pittsburgh to hoist the Big East hardware. Passionate head coach John Thompson III will keep his Hoyas hungry, blasting past the easiest bracket to an eventual clash with the Tar Heels in the Elite Eight. North Carolina is a star-studded squad, but superstar Tyler Hansbrough’s broken nose could spell trouble for Tobacco Road’s finest. Save a spot in the Final Four for the Hoyas.
No real surprises here. The last place in the Final Four should be reserved for the Buckeyes. Ohio State will continue their winning ways, thanks to the play of monster freshman Greg Oden and Michael Conley Jr. Ohio State’s first-year ballers complement each other extraordinarily well, giving the Buckeyes both a legitimate inside and outside threat.
Last year, Florida forward Joakim Noah brought his game to the next level, ensuring every NBA general manager was familiar with the 2006 NCAA Tournament MVP’s face by the time the Gators cut down the nets.
This year will be no different, but instead of Noah coming out of nowhere to receive tournament honors, it will be the aforementioned Conley Jr. Having been overshadowed by his teammate Oden and Texas freshman Kevin Durant for much of the season, the point guard, based on his Big Ten Conference tournament play, will explode during March Madness.
It appears that, once again, we are in store for another action-packed final few weeks of March. Fill out a bracket and stay posted to the latest water cooler gossip, because as college basketball’s favorite son Dick Vitale always says, “It’s going to be awesome, baby.”