Monday, March 18, 2013

Let the Madness of Parity Begin!

The annual spring collegiate basketball tournament that has become a social media sensation and American cultural institution is upon us again! The NCAA Tourney commonly known as March Madness gets started Tuesday evening with the official tip-off taking place on Thursday morning. With the parity college basketball is experiencing there are at least ten teams with a shot a cutting down the nets in Atlanta as favorites not to mention several Cinderella possibilities to wear the glass slipper and stun the country! Forty-four different schools were ranked this season which is just five off the record which was set back in the 2008- 09 campaign. While Gonzaga finished the regular season on top of the Associated Press poll for the first time in school history and as expected grabbed a number one seed in the West Region, the school to beat is Louisville. Rick Pitino’s crew, the top seed in the Mid-West Region showed just how potent and powerful they can be after outscoring Syracuse by 30 points in the second half of the Big East championship game turning a 13 point deficit into a 17 point victory. Indiana, who spent ten weeks at number one this past season, grabbed the top seed in the East Region with Kansas gaining top billing in the South. As always there are some compelling first round match-ups between eighth and ninth seeds. In Lexington, Kentucky Colorado State’s deliberate style of patient basketball, will be put to the test against a Missouri squad that will try to run you out of the gym along with firing three pointers as fast as the scoreboard can change digits! In the East Region, N.C. State who has superior talent is seeded 8th only because the Wolfpack don’t show up unless motivated. They’ll face a Temple squad that has been up and down all season. Expect C.J. Leslie, Richard Howell and Lorenzo Brown to all be ready to go and make a Cinderella run with talent that is as good as most in the entire tournament. Another eight versus nine game that intrigues is North Carolina against Villanova. The Tar Heels may be young but can shoot the deep ball with the best of them. P.J. Hairston and Reggie Bullock are long distance assassins. The Wildcats will counter with trying to pound the rock inside to Jay Vaughn disaster on a neutral court. They take on a red-hot Mississippi squad coming off an upset of Florida in the SEC Championship game. Rebels guard Marshall Henderson is capable of having one of those games carrying the underdog to glory. The other twelve versus five game that sticks out is Arkansas against VCU in Auburn Hills. Some experts believe Shaka Smart’s club can make another run to the final four like in 2011 when they upset top-seeded Kansas in the Southwest region. We say the Rams should be on upset alert in round one! While Arkansas is inconstant at times, the Hogs play the same high-paced tempo game as VCU and when hot can thump anyone as then number one Florida found out in Fayetteville earlier this season. Speaking of the final four which is what this event is all about, who might get there can be anybody’s guess? The favorites are Louisville and Duke out of the Midwest, Gonzaga and Ohio State from the West, Indiana and Miami from the East along with Kansas and Georgetown in the South. Sleeper picks starting in the Midwest Oklahoma State (young but very talented), Michigan State and St. Louis (defense wins games and both this teams can lock you down!). From the West you have to be aware of New Mexico. Steve Alford’s team won the Mountain West Tourney in Vegas against UNLV which says plenty not to mention they are big, have solid guard play and a star player in Kendall Williams who averages 13.5 points a game and can take over at any time. N.C. State in the East could be the surprise team. They have enough talent to take down Indiana in Dayton in the second round. Motivation is all the Wolfpack need and that match-up will bring exactly that! With the A-T-L the final destination, here are our picks for glory. Louisville from the Midwest, two-seed Ohio State from the West, Miami surprises with a ride from Austin all the way to Georgia and Georgetown stops Kansas to win the South. In the semis, Louisville takes down the Buckeyes and Miami’s size proves to be too much for the Hoyas. So we get two teams that love to run and shoot the three-ball, in the Cardinals and Hurricanes. But the difference in the championship game is size and Miami has it. Shane Larkin can handle the Louisville pressure, while Durand Scott and Larkin match Peyton Silva, Russ Smith and Luke Hancock three ball for three ball! The Hurricanes however go to the next level with points in the paint. Kenny Kadji, Reggie Johnson and Julian Gamble prove to be too big inside and Miami wins their first national title in a high scoring 82-78 shootout!

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