Well, here we are one day away from the real start of March Madness (The first four games don’t count! They are merely an appetizer for the main course. Nice, but not filling) and the excitement couldn’t be any more palpable as the hysteria is about to envelop the whole nation. Yes, even your Grandma, who likes Oregon because ducks are cute, will hooting and hollering.
And just like I did for the Big East Tournament, I will be live blogging all day during the NCAA Tournament. (Yes, I have no life. Well, at least not on those two days, as to me they are the best two days of the year!)
However, before we start with that, let’s dissect this year’s bracket as I dispense some thoughts, tidbits and things to watch, with some predictions thrown in as well. This will be a four-part series with a look at each region. We’ll continue with a look at the East region.
- Is it me or is Villanova being under appreciated? Many pundits, writers, etc gravitating toward Virginia or other sleepers as their winners in the East. I saw Villanova up close last week, and this is dang-good team. Their ball movement, shooting and toughness (Daniel Ochefu and JayVaughn Pinkston are a load to handle down low) can indeed take them to the Final Four. That said, Villanova’s crisp offensive sets against Virginia’s stifling defense could be one heck of a matchup in the regional finals— if both teams get that far.
- The matchup of the big men from N.C. State and LSU should be a fun game to watch. Also, the storyline of the Pack’s Ralston Turner playing against his former team is pretty cool.
- The matchup between Northern Iowa and Wyoming will be entertaining, if only for the fact it features two of the most unheralded players in the country in Northern Iowa’s Seth Tuttle and Wyoming’s Larry Nance Jr. (son of the ex-NBA player). Both teams also play in two of the most underrated conferences (the Mountain West and Missouri Valley). However, Northern Iowa is too disciplined to lose this affair, but it should be fun to watch nonetheless.
- Louisville has two great players in Montrezl Harrell and Terry Rozier, but outside of them, the Cardinals still struggle to score. The enigmatic Wayne Blackshear could hold the key to the Cardinals’ success. Their game against UC Irvine will feature the biggest player in the NCAA in Mamadou Ndiaye, who at 7’6, 300 pounds is a massive presence in the post, and his battle with Harrell as well as Mangok Mathiang and Chinanu Onuaka will be amusing.
- A potential matchup between Providence and Oklahoma in the round of 32 will be one to watch out for, as two of the better guards in the country could be showcased in the game. The Friars have an electric point guard who can stuff the stat sheet in Kris Dunn, while the Sooners counter with the lethally-dangerous Buddy Hield.
- Michigan State and Virginia could also play in the round of 32, and that too would be a rematch of when they played in last year’s Sweet 16 at Madison Square Garden. With the way these teams play defense, it could be of those typical ugly-yet-beautiful games that define March. Never bet against an Izzo-led Spartans’ team.
Winner: Villanova. The Wildcats will have a chip on their shoulder, and their team approach to the game will be a key factor in them getting back to the Final Four for the first time since 2009.