It’s one of the most exciting events in sports. The NCAA Basketball Tournament. March Madness. The promise of possibility and the possibility of upsets. It’s fun sitting down in front of a freshly printed bracket, going through each game, picking which teams you think will win until only one team is left, written on the National Champion line in black ink with your best penmanship. Will it be Kansas? Louisville? Kansas State? Right now, anything can happen.
It’s like spring training, when every Royals fan believes THIS IS THE YEAR we make it to the World Series even though every expert out there places the Royals last in the Central Division. And they’re usually right. But it’s more fun believing your team can do it versus being logical and depressed because there’s no chance in H-E-double hockey sticks that your team will actually win.
Yes, I’m talking to you fans of Southern University, North Carolina A&T, Western Kentucky and James Madison. A #16 seed has never beaten a #1 seed, and that streak will stay in tact this year. Put a good team on the #16 line and then maybe you’ll get an upset, but until then, the #1 seeds will continue to punch their ticket to the third round.
So how will our local team do? Missouri fans like to think they have the talent to get to the Sweet 16, and they do. If only junior guard Phil Pressey could hit clutch shots at the end of games! But remember last year, when Mizzou had a powerhouse team and they lost in the first round to Norfolk State? Hey, it happens in March. So maybe, if the gods are kind, karma will reverse itself and allow Mizzou to beat Colorado State and then Louisville to make it to the second weekend.
But probably not.
Louisville has the best team in the country right now and most favor the Redbirds to win it all. They still have to play the games, so let’s wait and see what happens. Anything can.
K-State is thanking the selection committee for letting them play in Kansas City and in a different bracket from Kansas. Here’s an interesting stat: KState has only lost twice in the last ten games, both time to KU. With KU in a different bracket, they don’t have to worry about the Jayhawks until the National Championship Game. No doubt, one of you has the Jayhawks and Wildcats meeting up in the final (not gonna happen).
But I digress.
KState has a tough task playing a tough La Salle team from the Atlantic 10. At least the Pioneers will be tired from playing in the Opening Round game and traveling from Dayton to Kansas City. With the home crowd behind them, KState will win their first game and face Wisconsin in the round of 32. Can they beat the Badgers? Tough to say. Wisconsin is on fire, getting to the Big 10 Championship game and playing Ohio State close. If they can beat Wisconsin, they would play Gonzaga in the Sweet 16 and have a legitimate chance of making it to the Round of 8. It definitely could happen. Wildcat fans are hoping so.
But probably not.
Now to KU, the number one seed in the South, playing in front of the home crowd in KC. Which team will show up? They have four starting seniors who played in the National Championship game against Kentucky last year, so they know what to expect. Early in the season, I picked them as my sleeper to win it all. But then Elijah Johnson struggled at the point. Then they lost to TCU. Then they lost three in a row. Yes, they have experience playing on the big stage but will they be able to BRING IT each and every game like they need to? Some believe North Carolina will beat them on Sunday. Some believe Michigan will beat them in the Sweet 16. I think Florida will beat them in the Great 8. That’s just too many tough games in a row and I think they’ll be exhausted from the competition. I’d love for them to make it to the Final Four – and they have the potential to do just that – but we’ll just have to wait and see.
So here are my Final Four teams:
Michigan State – Just because the Big 10 was the best conference in the nation this year and Tom Izzo is a heck of a coach. Louisville could easily win the Midwest as well, but I think the Spartans will score the upset and make it to the Final Four.
Florida – The Gators might have lost to Ole Miss in the SEC Tournament, but they won the SEC and have a great defense and offense. I just have a hunch they will get to Atlanta, but will fall to…
Miami – Frank Haith recruited a lot of these players, but the Hurricanes have played really well of late. I believe they will get to the championship game to face…
New Mexico – I think Steve Alford’s Lobos will win it all this year. Not only does he share a last name with my co-worker, Mark Alford, but New Mexico played one of the toughest schedules in the nation and has one of the best defenses in the nation. In a year when no team really stepped to the forefront and dominated, I believe this is the year an underdog swoops in and takes it all.
Now we just have to wait and see because more than likely, none of my teams will make it to the Final Four and I will, once again, be forced to eat crow.
But probably not.
You can reach Matt Stewart at firstname.lastname@example.org.