Let The Madness Begin

By: Andrew Whalen, Contributor

The first round of the 2016 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament started yesterday with 16 separate games played across the country.

Some fanatics took the last few days to put aside work, studying and their personal lives so they could show their knowledge and try to fill out the perfect bracket, even though the feat has probably never been accomplished.

Like in every tournament, there is a committee that selects a field of 68 teams that will make the tournament. The field was only 64 teams, but there was a new rule implemented a few years ago that allow four extra teams to get a chance to play.

Two teams will face off in two games for the right to play in the first round.  Along with the first round, more known as the “Round of 64,” there is the “Round of 32,” “Sweet Sixteen,” “Elite Eight,” “Final Four,” and the “National Championship” rounds.

The tournament is composed of four regions named the ‘South,’ ‘East,’ ‘West,’ and ‘Midwest’ regions.  Each region has 16 teams, with given the top team in each region a ‘one’ seed and the worst team in each region a ‘16’ seed. The top seeds for each region in this year’s tournament are University of North Carolina in the East Region, University of Oregon Ducks in the West Region, University of Virginia Cavaliers in the Midwest Region and University of Kansas Jayhawks in the South Region.

Unlike in years past, none of the current number one seeds are a clear favorite to win the championship.

Las Vegas Gambling Associations have given Kansas the best odds to win the National Championship at 10/2. Michigan State University Spartans, given the number two seed in the Midwest Region by the NCAA Tournament Committee, has the next best odds to win it all at 11/2, followed by number one seed in the East Region North Carolina Tar Heels (14/2) and number four seed in the East Region, Kentucky University (20/2).

The Sunday before the tournament is a day where college basketball teams all across the country find out if they made the tournament– Selection Sunday.

The NCAA Tournament Committee dealt with an unpleasant surprise this time around. CBS hosts a two-hour release show in which they reveal the bracket one region and one seed at a time. But about 25 minutes into the show, the full bracket was leaked on Twitter. At first, people were skeptical that it was the correct bracket. But after reviewed by the NCAA, it was confirmed that this was in fact the correct bracket. They are now investigating the fact how this bracket was released before the conclusion of the show.

One dark horse team notable college basketball television analysts have making a deep run in the tournament is the University of Kentucky Wildcats. They are lead by head coach John Callipari, former coach of the University of Massachusetts Minutemen.

My “dark horse” team this year is Duke University. Despite being the four seed in the West Region, Duke may be overlooked by many. But they have a few factors that I think make them a team that could advance far in the tournament. First, they have one of the best college basketball coaches of all time: Mike Krzyzewski. Second, they are the reigning National Champions, and many of their players have tournament experience. They also have one of the best scorers in college basketball in guard Grayson Allen. When there is five seconds left in the game and your team is down two points, players like Allen are ones that coaches want to have the ball in their hands. Duke has been inconsistent all year, but they played some close games during the season. I expect them to make it to at least the Elite Eight, probably the Final Four, and possibly the National Championship.

Two “dark horse” teams that have a chance to get through a few rounds in this year’s tourney are University of Hawaii and University of Northern Iowa.

Hawaii, given a 13 seed by the committee, played a few close games this year against some very good teams, including University of Oklahoma Sooners, Texas Tech University Red Raiders and Northern Iowa. They play some very good defense and rebounded well.

Northern Iowa is riding a hot streak entering the tournament. They had a few big wins this year, including two against Wichita State, one against Iowa State and one against North Carolina. Look for Northern Iowa to give the University of Texas Longhorns a difficult matchup and advance into the Round of 32.

For my own personal bracket, my Final Four teams are: Kansas, North Carolina, Duke and Michigan State. I have Kansas beating Duke to advance to the National Championship and Michigan State beating North Carolina to also advance. Michigan State has already beat Kansas this year, but I don’t see that happening again. I have Kansas as my National Champions, winning 73-69. As most fans are, I am excited for the tournament to unfold.

Enjoy the madness!