This is my favorite time of the year. Forget my birthday, forget Christmas, forget college football bowl season. This is what it is all about. The traditions, the passion, the rivalries, the fight songs and the student sections make this month of March incredibly exciting, but also incredibly nerve-racking.
I’ll be the first to tell you that I am no college basketball expert. I do, however, follow college basketball as much as I can (much more than the NBA), which I think makes me more knowledgeable than the average fan. With that being said, I have just as much trouble picking my bracket as the next person. Yet, every year, my bracket turns out somewhat impressive.
Now it is your turn to fill out your bracket. Do your best to channel your inner-Dick Vitale, and “HAVE AT IT, BABY!”
Final Four predictions
Final Four: Kentucky, Florida State, Marquette, North Carolina
Quotable : Can someone please get Kentucky’s Anthony Davis some tweezers? Does he not notice the unibrow when he looks in the mirror every morning?
Player to watch
If the Ohio State Buckeyes are going to make a run at the Final Four, sophomore forward Jared Sullinger is going to have a lot to do with it. Sullinger is an absolute force on both ends of the floor. Sullinger is averaging 17.6 points and 9.3 rebounds per game, while shooting 76 percent from the free throw line. To many, it is a surprise that Sullinger is even playing in this year’s NCAA Tournament. Many believed Sullinger would leave for the NBA after his freshman year, where he was sure to be a lottery pick. Regardless, he is back and ready to lead the Buckeyes to the promised land. This may be Sullinger’s last chance to win the NCAA title, as he is expected to declare for the draft after this season.
Matchup to watch
Florida State vs. Ohio State in the Sweet 16 seems more like a must-see football matchup than basketball. At this time of year, the teams on a hot streak tend to make a serious run to the Final Four. Florida State is on one of those hot streaks. Led by the 2012 Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of the Year Leonard Hamilton the Seminoles captured the ACC Tournament championship by knocking off the likes of North Carolina and Duke, in consecutive games. That alone is considered a hot streak in most people’s minds. The Seminoles, known for their lockdown defense, could be a problem for Jared Sullinger and the Ohio State Buckeyes. If the Seminoles are able to smother Sullinger down low, it will be up to sophomore forward Deshaun Thomas to carry the load.
There are very few certainties in March. One of those certainties: Do not bet against head coach Bob Huggins. Huggins’ squad is very dangerous this time of the year. In 14 NCAA Tournament appearances, Huggins has failed to advance to the second round just once.
Kevin Jones, who averages 20.1 points and 11.1 rebounds per game, and senior guard Darryl Bryant, who averages 17.2 points per game, lead West Virginia against a Gonzaga squad that did not win either the West Coast Conference regular-season or tournament title for the first time in years.
If anyone deserves to be confident going into the NCAA Tournament, it is the Vanderbilt Commodores. After the Kentucky Wildcats finished Southeastern Conference play undefeated, nobody expected it to be challenged in the SEC Tournament. Not only was it challenged, it was defeated, as Vanderbilt beat Kentucky, 71-64, in the SEC tournament championship. It is up to the Commodores to see how far they will go. Vanderbilt has a reputation for flopping once in the NCAA Tournament. It has been upset by a lower seed in the opening round three of the last four years. If Vanderbilt remains confident and plays the way it did against Kentucky, there is a chance the Commodores will make the Elite Eight.