It’s difficult to preview the NCAA Tournament. For one, I don’t have the time to watch enough college basketball to know everything there is to know about all 64 teams. Secondly, I can’t even name all 64 teams. Therefore, I won’t bother with a preview predicting the biggest upset, who’s a lock for the Final Four, and which player will earn himself millions in this summer’s NBA draft. Instead, here are a few things to look forward to when March Madness tips off in less than 12 hours.
1. An abundance of competitive games with nail biting finishes. Much has been made about the weak field this year. While the overall quality of play will undoubtedly suffer, parity should make for some entertaining basketball. Expect fewer blowouts, more exciting upsets, and maybe even a double digit seed in the Elite Eight. Ok, so that’s unlikely, but still, it should be interesting. (By the way, the whole college basketball is low on talent thing is a serious issue. I can’t remember the last time I watched so little college basketball. Come on teenagers! Practice harder!)
Also, I’ve always been a bigger NBA fan and never understood why people said the college game is better, but now I really don’t understand when I hear that argument. The college game is in the dumps. My son is only nine months old, so in 18 years maybe he can turn things around. Fingers crossed.
2. Jimmer Fredette. No, he’s not going to be one of the top five players taken in the NBA draft. No, he won’t lead BYU to a title. However, Fredette is the most exciting player to watch in college basketball. Remember a few years ago when Steph Curry single-handedly injected March Madness with an extra dose of excitement? Fredette is on that level. When he’s on, he’s must see TV. There aren’t enough good shooters in basketball these days. Fredette is as pure a shooter there is. Watch him take a few steps beyond half court and hoist what would normally be considered an awful shot. Only, Fredette makes them…consistently, nonetheless. Don’t be fooled, though. Fredette is a savvy finisher at the rim and plays harder than anyone. Sadly, the suspension of Brandon Davies severely dampened BYU’s hopes of a deep run. Even sadder, Davies’ suspension ultimately limits our time with Fredette. Make sure to catch him while you can. He’s worth the 2.5 hours of your time.
3. The Southeast region. In my flawed, unprofessional, and totally biased opinion, the southeast region is completely up for grabs, and that makes it the most compelling region. Pittsburgh is a strong, experienced team but I can’t remember the last time a Pitt team didn’t disappoint in the NCAA Tournament. There are too many talented teams in the southeast region for Pitt to survive all the way to the Final Four. Jacob Pullen is one of the premiere “PTPers” (Prime Time Players) in college basketball. I expect him to carry Kansas State and definitely scare the beejesus out of Pitt. St. John’s has been a giant killer this season, including a victory over Pitt. Wisconsin, BYU, and Florida are all solid teams as well and could easily find themselves in Houston. Last but not least, don’t sleep on Tom Izzo’s Michigan State bunch. Izzo’s teams have always ratcheted up their play come tournament time. I would be shocked if they returned to East Lansing without making some noise first.
4. The Big East. Due to the depth of the Big East (and the lack of quality teams throughout college basketball), the Big East sent 11 teams to the Big Dance. I’m a Big East homer, but last year the conference failed to live up to its hype in the tournament. Villanova crashing and burning in round two was especially devastating. It’ll be interesting to see how the conference fares this year. I would love to see the Big East represented heavily in the Elite Eight and beyond. I especially like Louisville and Notre Dame, but Syracuse and UConn are as good as anyone when they’re on their game. Obviously, I’d be ecstatic if Villanova knocked off Ohio State but that’s like hoping Emily from The Bachelor will one day become my sister-in-law.
5. A Duke repeat. Ohio State is widely considered the best, most complete team. I disagree. Duke has the pedigree, the depth, the talent, and obviously, the experience to win a national title. Duke has several players that can take over a game. Nolan Smith, Kyle Singler, and Kyrie Irving (if he plays) can individually carry Duke to victory. It’s tough enough to defeat one great player. Knocking off three, and a talented supporting cast to boot, is that much tougher. Full Disclosure: I pray every night Duke doesn’t advance deep into the tournament, or worse, win the whole thing. I can only hope God is a UNC fan.
6. Charles Barkley. That’s right, the NBA playoffs are still a month away but we’ll be treated to the Chuckster a full month early. I can’t wait. (Of course Gus Johnson is always a reason to watch, too. I didn’t think it was necessary to state the obvious, though.)
7. Mama Curry. While I’d rather not see Duke around, it never hurts to see Mama Curry in the crowd. Although the field may be weaker this year, Mama Curry always brings her A game.