Welcome to March Madness readers. It’s the best time of year, a time where people who haven’t watched college basketball all year, except for highlights on Sportscenter, sit in front of a computer screen and try to pick between two schools they have never heard of.
With the games beginning tomorrow, here are some teams to look out for when filling out your brackets.
Mississippi State—The Bulldogs played their best basketball of the season in the SEC Tournament. Wins over LSU in the semifinals and Tennessee in the finals punched State’s ticket to the tournament.
Jarvis Varnado is a solid low post presence that blocks over four shots per game to go along with 13 points and nine rebounds.
State can also shoot the three point shot very well with guys like Ravern Johnson, who shoots over 40 percent from the three-point line, and Barry Stewart.
The Bulldogs could make some noise in round one against Washington. The only problem may be the long trip to Portland and the short three days rest.
Missouri—Former Arkansas assistant coach Mike Anderson has brought an up tempo style of basketball to the Tigers that has suited them well this season. Missouri could be an extremely dangerous team in this tournament because of the amount of pressure they put on their opponents with their press.
The Tigers get over 10 steals per game and that could translate into a lot of easy baskets. DeMarre Carroll and Leo Lyons both consistently score in double figures to pace an offense that averages over 80 points per game.
If the Tigers can reach the Sweet 16, they may be one of the only teams that can match up with Memphis’ athleticism with their pressure defense.
Arizona—A lot of people think the Wildcats did not deserve to be in the field after losing five of their last six games. Those players have been listening to that as well.
Look for Arizona, a talented but inconsistent team, to play with a lot of emotion in round one against Utah.
The Wildcats have three extremely talented players in Jordan Hill, Chase Budinger, and Nic Wise. All three average over 15 points per game. If the Wildcats can put everything together, they could cause problems for Utah and possibly Wake Forest in the second round.
Siena—The Saints played an incredibly tough schedule this season that has prepared them for the tournament. Siena played Tennessee, Oklahoma State, Kansas, and Pittsburgh in their non-conference schedule.
The Saints have four players that score in double figures per game. Ohio State must be wary of this team before worrying about a possible second round game against No.1 overall seed Louisville.
Clemson—When clicking on all cylinders, this team can play with anyone in the country. Trevor Booker can control a game in the paint, K.C. Rivers is a talented guard, and Terrence Oglesby can shoot the three.
Michigan will be a tough test in round one, but I think Oklahoma does not want to see the Tigers in round two.
Syracuse—The Orange played seven overtimes in their crazy ride through the Big East Tournament this weekend. Syracuse is very athletic and can shoot the three-point shot very well.
Jonny Flynn at the point guard spot is the key to their success. His ability to get into the lane and kick the ball out to shooters as well as score the ball will give opposing defenses fits.
If they can get there, the Orange could give Oklahoma problems in the Sweet 16.
Florida State—Look out for the Seminoles at the top of this regional. Their upset of No.1 North Carolina in the ACC Tournament was no fluke.
This team has a star in Toney Douglas, who scores over 21 points per game. Douglas has the potential to shine brightly on a big stage and propel the Seminoles into the Sweet 16.
VCU-This team already has a history of being a sleeper in the NCAA Tournament. Two seasons ago, the Rams upset Duke in round one on a last second shot by point guard Eric Maynor.
Maynor is still around and averaging over 22 points per game to go along with six assists. Larry Sanders is another good player for VCU averaging over eight rebounds and two blocks per game.
UCLA has underachieved this season even with players like Josh Shipp and Darren Collison. The long trip to Philadelphia will not help the Bruins deal with this scrappy VCU team.