March Madness is upon us! This past Sunday the NCAA Tournament’s field of 68 was announced with Florida, Wichita State, Virginia, and Arizona getting the top seed in their brackets.
This year there was not much controversy over teams left out of the Big Dance, with SMU (ranked 25th in the current Associated Press poll and coached by Hall of Fame Coach Larry Brown) the glaring exception.
However, there is plenty of controversy regarding tournament seeding. With a 29-5 record, winning 12 of their last 13 games, Louisville was believed to be a potential one seed, but instead was given the fourth seed in an incredibly difficult Midwest bracket. I think ranking the defending champs who have gone on strong in the last month is not right. ESPN top college basketball analyst Jay Bilas said "To suggest that Louisville's not in the top-12 teams in the country just boggles the mind." Kentucky with a 24-10 record is another team many thought was under appreciated, seeded eighth in the Midwest.
This year, Warren Buffet and Dan Gilbert, CEO of Quicken Loans and owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, have livened up tournament bracket betting, offering a billion dollars through Yahoo! to anyone who completes a perfect bracket. The odds of doing so however are 1 in 9.2 quintillion (though others have listed it as 1 in 128 billion since not every game is a 50-50 toss-up). I think the Buffet betting has added an extra element of fun to this year's watching. The games start on Thursday March 20th, and end on April 7th.
There have been no documented cases of a perfect bracket ever, although that hasn’t kept fan enthusiasm from bubbling over. I predict huge uptick in bracket participation and a lot of people who have never bothered to compete brackets will do so for the first time.
One of the big storylines throughout the college basketball season is Wichita State with its 34-0 record. For the first time since the 1990-1991 UNLV “’Runnin’ Rebels” with point guard Greg Anthony and power forward Larry Johnson with coach Jerry Tarkanian, a team has gone undefeated in the regular season. The Rebels reached the Final Four that year, but lost to the eventual champions, the Duke Blue Devils, the team the Rebels beat to win the previous year’s title.
The last team to run the table and complete the perfect season and win the tournament was the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers, under legendary coach Bob Knight. The Shockers, a Final Four team last year, look to join their ranks but face a tough challenge. As the top seed in the Midwest bracket, Wichita State could battle Kentucky, the 2012 champion, last year’s winner Louisville, and last year’s runner up Michigan on their way to NCAA finals at AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys.
My personal picks to make the Final Four are Florida, Wichita State, North Carolina and Arizona. Of those four, Florida and Wichita State advance to play in the championship game, with the Shockers emerging victorious, completing the perfect season.
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