It’s that time of year again. When sports fans research, discuss, analyze and do everything possible to predict the outcome of every game in the NCAA tournament. For the next three weeks, they will check their computer or phone to see the scores and watch their beloved bracket crumble to pieces as each buzzer sounds. Yes, the madness of March is finally upon us. When 68 NCAA basketball teams are chosen to compete for its most prestigious prize, the National Championship.
The Men’s Division I Basketball Championship is a single elimination tournament. There are 31 teams, which receive an “automatic bid” by winning their respective conference, and then there are 37 more teams that are rewarded with an “at large berth”. In total, there are 67 basketball games in the span of 20 days. It’s heaven for basketball fans. It’s March Madness.
This year there seems to be two frontrunners, the Kentucky Wildcats and the Syracuse Orangemen. Both teams finishing their regular season 30-1 and have locked up the top two seeds. Along with them, the North Carolina Tar Heels and Michigan State Spartans have claimed top seeds. Although an advantage, it really doesn’t mean much with all of the upsets that occur in the tournament. In fact, only 19 number one seeds have won the national championship in the last 32 years, proving that seeding doesn’t guarantee anything.
Although top seeding doesn’t guarantee success, it is an advantage. By the numbers, it looks like it will be either the Kentucky Wildcats or the Orangemen of Syracuse cutting down the nets this year. There are, of course, the powerhouses like Duke, Ohio State and Kansas who will make some noise as well. On the other hand, there are the sleepers like Murray State finishing 30-1 but receiving a lower seed due to their weak conference.
As the brackets were released this past Sunday, it looks like top ranked Kentucky has one of the toughest regions. Now don’t get me wrong, they are surely up to the task but it won’t be easy. They have a possible matchup in their second game with defending national champion Connecticut, along with Indiana who was the only team to beat Kentucky in the regular season. To make it even more difficult for Kentucky, they have the prestigious Duke Blue Devils and Baylor Bears in a possible matchup.
If I had to pick one region to have my team play, it would be the West region where Michigan State is the top seed. There are no teams that really look like they have a clear shot of winning this bracket. Coming off a Big-12 title, Missouri looks like a contender along with a Louisville team coming off a Big East title. Last year’s champion, Connecticut, came into the tournament after winning the Big East which is arguably the best conference. If you are filling out your bracket right now, I would be on the watch for upsets in this region with strong underdogs like Murray State and Virginia.
As you move to the other side of your bracket, the East region led by Syracuse looks like the toughest region. There is Ohio State who may have received a number one seed if they would have won the Big-Ten title which, they lost by four. A dangerous Florida State team is coming off back to back wins over Duke and North Carolina to claim the ACC title. Vanderbilt beats Kentucky in the SEC championship, Cincinnati following a win over Syracuse and a strong Wisconsin team. Whichever team can survive this region, will be a scary matchup in the Final Four.
Finally, the last region is the Midwest, led by North Carolina. This region isn’t full of powerhouses and could very easily be “upset central” and bust brackets all over the place. A very solid Kansas team could do some damage but other than that, I would say this one is up for grabs. It will be whoever can get hot at the right time.
Now, after a brief look into this year’s bracket, it appears as if the committee who created the bracket did a great job. There are exciting match-ups throughout the bracket and plenty of room for upsets. It won’t be easy for any team, but look out for Kentucky and Syracuse as the powerhouses of this year’s madness.