Sunday, March 17, 2013

Ready, Set, Madness

The road to the Final Four in Atlanta is underway with Sunday's unveiling of the field of 68 teams in the men's tourney. Kentucky will be the fifth defending champion to not make the tournament since the field was expanded to 64 in 1985.

Big East Conference tournament champion Louisville received the #1 overall seed and will play in the Midwest region on Thursday vs the NC A&T-Liberty winner. The Cardinals will have a tough journey to the Elite Eight with #2-seeded Duke and #3-seeded Michigan State in their bracket. The dark-horse team in this region is #4 seed Saint Louis, winners of the Atlantic-10 and could be a challenge to Rick Pitino's bunch. Another interesting matchup in this bracket is #7 Creighton vs #10 Cincinnati. The athleticism of the Bearcats could hamper the electric scoring of Doug McDermott.

Big 12 Conference champion Kansas is the #1 seed in South region and will face Sun Belt Conference champion Western Kentucky in Kansas City, MO on Friday. The committee didn't give the Jayhawks any favors with a possible matchup against #8-seed North Carolina who faces #9-seed Villanova. The Tar Heels lost a close game to Miami (FL) for the ACC Tournament title Sunday and got a tough draw in the Wildcats who have come on strong as of late with regular season wins over Syracuse, Georgetown and Louisville.  A regional final matchup between Kansas and #2 seed Georgetown is a possibility barring any upsets. 

Indiana received the #1 seed in the East region and will play the winner of LIU-Brooklyn-James Madison winner Friday in Dayton. Head coach Tom Crean has done a remarkable job resurrecting a once-dead storied program following the fallout of then-coach Kelvin Sampson. Cody Zeller and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Victor Oladipo could prove vital to their run to Atlanta. Other notable teams that could get in their way are #2-seed Miami (FL), #3-seed Marquette and #4-seed Syracuse. It would be interesting to see how the Hoosiers play against Syracuse's zone should they face each other in the Sweet 16.

West Coast Conference champion Gonzaga received the #1 seed in the West Region and will play Southern on Friday in Salt Lake City. Kelly Olynyk has been unstoppable in the last few games as the Bulldogs ran through the regular season en route to a conference tournament title. Big Ten tournament champion Ohio State is the #2 seed in this bracket. The Buckeyes along with #3 seed New Mexico could be the two teams to pose a threat to Gonzaga.

Sleeper teams in the tournament are Memphis, VCU, Saint Louis, Bucknell, Butler, Temple and New Mexico. Any one of these teams could make a serious run in the tournament and throw monkey wrenches in many pages of brackets nationwide. In addition, no team from Texas made the field of 68 for the first time since 1977. Don't be surprised if all #1 seeds do not make it to the Final Four. Expect at least two to three upsets in the first two weekends of the tournament. 

May the best bracket win.