It is that time of the year again.
The NBA and NHL seasons are in full stride as games become more and more meaningful as teams in both leagues look for good playoff positioning. MLB teams are fine tuning their rosters for opening day and, oh yeah, there’s a little thing called the NCAA men’s basketball tournament referred to as March Madness.
The collegiate tournament is everything the name implies. In a single elimination tournament, the best teams in college basketball are susceptible to a heartbreaking loss or can come away with a program-changing win, bringing them one step closer to the championship.
Now with 68 teams (the old system had 64), the tournament figures to have more chances at a Cinderella story.
This year should be no different, and as everyone prepares to fill out their brackets in hopes of some miracle, getting a perfect bracket or at the very least besting their co-workers, close friends or siblings.Here are my picks to win their respective brackets and make it to the Final Four.
West: The West region is the toughest road to the Final Four in my opinion. Defending national champion Duke is the No.1 seed and has the talent and experience to repeat. Tennessee has big wins over Pittsburgh, another No. 1, and Vanderbilt. Junior guard Scotty Hopson has the ability to create his own shot in tight games. Hopson leads the team in scoring at 17.4 points per game. The west also has tough teams like Texas, which is one of the most complete albeit inconsistent teams in the country and a probable Cinderella team in Oakland. There is also a well balanced team in San Diego State that will be playing close to home, but the team that I think will win the West region is UConn, which is playing with confidence after coming off as Big East Conference tournament champions.
East: I look for Ohio State to win the East region. The Buckeyes have a great inside outside game with the best low-post threat in college hoops in Jared Sullinger and one of the best three-point shooters in Jon Diebler. A potential matchup with Kentucky could prove to be a tough test against a young but athletic and talented team. Syracuse is another well-coached team that can make a push in the tournament with a 2-3 zone offense that can cause problems to any team, especially ones that struggle behind the three-point line.
Southwest: In the Southwest, I’m taking Louisville to win it all. They have great depth on the perimeter and two players in Peyton Siva and Preston Knowles that can penetrate at will, creating opportunities for others or finish at the rim. If they are to make the Final Four however, they are going to have to get past a heavily favored experienced and depth-heavy Kansas team. There is also a tough Notre Dame team which moves the ball well and has a top-notch scorer in Ben Hansbrough.
Southeast: I like the Big East regular conference champion Pittsburgh to win the Southeast bracket with the easiest road to Houston. Sure, there are potentially dangerous teams like Kansas State with Jacob Pullen, but they are incredibly inconsistent. An early exit is just as possible as a deep run in the tournament for the Panthers. Florida is another good team with great depth at the guard position and decent play down low. The problem is the Gators because they have the tendency to become a one-dimensional squad and forget about their big guys in the paint. Let’s not forget about BYU, which has the top scorer in the nation in Jimmer Fredette who averages 28.5 points a game and can give the Cougars a chance to beat anyone they’ll potentially face in the tournament.