March Madness: Tourney unveiled
If you love college basketball, this is the time of year to live it up. The NCAA Tournament committee gave us the field of 68, which had very few gripes unlike in previous years. While people in Syracuse and Illinois might be complaining about a team or two being left out, the field is one of the deepest and most competitive we have had in ions, with a good dozen teams having a real chance to cut down the nets in Glendale.
Perhaps the best region, or at least the most intriguing, is the South. The North Carolina Tar Heels are the top seed in the bracket, something many believed would not happen going into Selection Sunday. Roy Williams’ club is going to have to earn it to get to the Final Four, though. North Carolina has a potentially tough game in the second round against the Seton Hall Pirates, and then could see either the Kentucky Wildcats or UCLA Bruins in the Elite Eight.
Both Kentucky and UCLA are good enough to not only get to Glendale, but win the whole thing. John Calipari and Steve Alford have their respective clubs playing terrific basketball, both having star freshmen in Malik Monk and Lonzo Ball.
The Midwest region is also very tough. The Kansas Jayhawks are the top seed, but they will face some of the best teams in the country from start to finish. In the round of 32, Kansas could be going up against the Michigan State Spartans, who have made the tournament for the 20th straight year. Head coach Tom Izzo doesn’t have the caliber of player he normally does, but his presence alone should concern Jayhawks fans.
Beyond the Spartans, the Jayhawks might need to beat the Louisville Cardinals in the Elite Eight, or the Iowa State Cyclones in the Sweet 16, who just finished winning their third Big 12 tournament in four seasons. Kansas is a trendy pick to win it all, and with good reason, but it won’t be a cakewalk.
Finally, look for the Elite Eight showdown between the Duke Blue Devils and Villanova Wildcats to materialize. Both teams have a fairly easy road to that point in the tourney, with Duke simply having to avoid being tripped up by either the SMU Mustangs or the Baylor Bears. Villanova may have to go up against the Florida Gators or Virginia Cavaliers in the Sweet 16, but either foe would be a heavy underdog against the reigning national champions.