By Josh Kramer
For the first time in a very long time, there will be no “Food for Thought” today (Tuesday). A higher being has taken charge. And that would be none other than March Madness. Sure there are other things going on in sports, but what else do you really want to talk about? Sorry Peyton. You will be taking a back seat today.
The brackets are finally set. And as usual, Joe Lunardi did a wonderful job with Bracketology, correctly guessing 67 of the 68 teams in the field. The guy is unbelievable. But enough speculation. Let’s talk about the actual tournament bracket.
South Region: The Region of Prestige
-Many are proclaiming this the best region in the field. I do not agree (I think the East is). But without question, it is not short on “prestigious” programs such as Kentucky, Connecticut, Indiana, and Duke. In addition, three of last year’s Final Four participants reside in the South (Kentucky, Connecticut, and VCU). But let’s be entirely realistic. This region starts and ends with the Big Blue Nation. If Kentucky comes to play, they won’t lose.
-Xavier over Notre Dame
-The Connecticut Huskies are praying that history does not repeat itself. Each time UConn has won the title under Jim Calhoun (1999, 2004) the following year has resulted in a second round exit from the tourney (would be third round this year).
-A number one overall seed has been revealed each of the past eight years. The top seed has only reached the Final Four three times. The only number one overall seed during this year eight year stretch to win the title was Florida in 2007. Kentucky is praying that they can accomplish what their SEC rival did five years ago.
West (Phoenix): The Region of Intensity
-You are probably very confused as to why I have declared this the “Region of Intensity.” Well it is simple frankly. The top half features the likes of Michigan State, Memphis, and Louisville. All very physical teams. The bottom half has Missouri and Marquette. Two of the fastest teams in the nation. So the combination of physicality and speed equals intensity. A potential Sweet 16 matchup between Missouri/Marquette could quite possibly be the most exciting game of the entire tournament.
-Long Beach State over New Mexico
-Michigan State started out the season 0 and 2. Now they appear poised to go to their 7th Final Four in 14 years. This may be the best job Tom Izzo has ever done during his illustrious career.
-Louisville finished 7th in the Big East this season, but won the Big East Tournament Championship. UConn finished 9th last season in the Big East. They then went on to win both the Big East Tournament Championship and the NCAA Tournament Championship. The Cardinals also won the Big East Tournament Championship back in 2009. This resulted in an Elite Eight appearance.
East (Boston): The Region of Unpredictability
-Not only do I consider this to be the toughest region at this time, but I also think it is the most unpredictable. Sure Syracuse is a great team, but they showed vulnerability against Cincinnati on Friday. OSU has been extremely Jekyll and Hyde all year long. And Florida State may be the hottest team in the country, having defeated both Duke and North Carolina two times apiece this season. This is by far the most difficult region to pick who will make the trip to New Orleans.
-West Virginia over Gonzaga
-Cincinnati and Ohio State played each other in both the 1961 and 1962 National Championship Games. Since then, they have only played once (2006). It would be very special to see these two tradition filled programs turn the Sweet 16 into a little “Battle of Ohio.”
-Cincinnati has only played in Nashville one other time in the NCAA Tournament. This was back in 2000, the year of the “Kenyon Martin Injury.” UC ended up losing in the second round that year to Tulsa.
Midwest (St. Louis): The Region of Post Presence
-Now I could definitely understand why you all would be scratching your head at my title for the Midwest Region. But here is some clarification. North Carolina has ACC Player of the Year Tyler Zeller in the post. Kansas has Thomas Robinson. Georgetown has Henry Sims. And Purdue has Robbie Hummel. I also am well-aware that there are some great perimeter players in this region as well. Guys like Kendall Marshall, Harrison Barnes, Doug McDermott, Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., Tyshawn Taylor, Kerron Johnson, and more. The rule of thumb is that teams with good and experienced guards are more likely to make deep runs. In this region, I think it will be more about which teams are able to get consistent production out of their post players.
-NC State over San Diego State
-Creighton’s star player, who also happens to be the third leading scorer in the nation, Doug McDermott, was high school teammates with North Carolina star Harrison Barnes. Wouldn’t it be fun to see these two elite scorers that graduated together from Ames High School in Iowa square off in the NCAA third round?
-Kansas has been eliminated by a team 8 seeds lower than them in 4 of their 7 tourney losses during the Bill Self era.
People on average spend 75 minutes filling out their NCAA Tournament Brackets. Hopefully reading this has eased your picking process. Tomorrow, I will post my official bracket. Enjoy the “First Four” games tonight and tomorrow.
Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.