By Brian Willwerth
With the March Madness tournament slowly approaching, our very own Brian Willwerth has decided to provide fans with some intriguing predictions, so let’s see if his ideas or thoughts actually come true.
The NCAA tournament kicked off on Wednesday with the newly-created “First Four match ups” in Dayton, Ohio. The march to the Final Four in Houston begins at 6:40 p.m when UNC-Asheville takes on Arkansas-Little Rock. Since there are four extra teams in this year’s tourney, here are four random things worth looking out for over the next few weeks.
Will there be a repeat national championship?
You don’t have to go back very far to find the last time this happened – Florida won back-to-back titles in 2005 and 2006. This year, all eyes will be on Duke, the #1 seed in the West Region. If the higher seeds all hold serve in that bracket – and that’s a big if – the Blue Devils face a potential matchup with Connecticut or San Diego State in the regional final. Still, with Mike Krzyzewski at the helm, Duke will be a contender to cut down the nets in Houston.
Who will be this year’s Cinderella?
Everyone loves a Cinderella – a lesser-known school that makes a bold run in the tournament. Remember George Mason’s run to the Final Four in 2006? The Patriots beat teams coached by Roy Williams, Tom Izzo and Jim Calhoun to get there. Butler’s run to the national championship game last year was magical, but I cringe at those who called Butler a Cinderella. The Bulldogs were ranked for much of the year. Butler and George Mason are both in the field again this year. Brad Stevens and Jim Larranaga know what it takes to get to Houston. Do they have more magic in them to make a run?
Will a #16 finally beat a #1?
Full disclosure: I am Boston University alum. I am thrilled to see the Terriers in the tournament, even as a #16 seed. For a team out of the America East, just earning a spot in the Big Dance is cause for celebration. But BU has a history of getting blown-out big time in the tournament, as is the case with many #16 seeds. The same daunting task awaits teams like Texas-San Antonio, Alabama State, Hampton, UNC-Asheville and Arkansas-Little Rock (two of those teams will advance from Dayton to play the top seeds.)
How long will it take for Gus Johnson to “lose it?”
My guess: not very long. If the Pac-10 Tournament Final is any indication, Johnson is already in March Madness form. He’ll call the second set of “First Four” games in Dayton on Wednesday, and then it’s off to Cleveland for games on Friday/Sunday. And with the new TV format – all of the games will be televised live over four networks – there are no limits for fans that just can’t get enough Gus Johnson in March.