“A” is for Arizona.
How in the world is this team in the field? Despite being 19-13 (9-10 in PAC-10 play), losing five of their last six, and sporting an RPI of 63 (yes, really), the committee felt this team belonged? This is a joke.
‘Zona’s only two true road wins came against Oregon and Oregon State, which won a combined 21 games. Nonetheless, Arizona is two tournament appearances away from matching North Carolina’s record of 27 consecutive bids in a row from 1975-2001. They have enough talent where they will probably win a game or two and the pompous committee will say, “I told you they belonged.” A complete joke.
“B” is for Bison.
The North Dakota State Bison are making their first NCAA appearance, and it’s coming in the school’s first season as a full-fledged Division I member. The Bison have four fifth-year seniors who red-shirted just to be a part of this season, led by Summit League player of the year Ben Woodside.
Woodside ranks among the nation’s Top 15 players in scoring and assists. He scored 60 points and tied an NCAA record with 30 free throws in a regular-season game against Stephen F. Austin.
“C” is for CBS.
They do a great job with breaking into games and making sure you catch all the action. They will surely dominate the Nielsens for the next three weekends. The network again will stream the broadcasts for free on March Madness On Demand on the NCAA’s Web site.
“D” is for Dayton.
The city, not the squad. It could be the toughest ticket to find of all of the eight first-round cities. Fans from Louisville, Pittsburgh, and Ohio State will all converge on the University of Dayton Arena, none having to tax themselves for more than a four-hour drive. An hour after the bracket was announced, upper-level seats already were going for $250 and up on stubhub.com.
“E” is for Ebanks.
Devin Ebanks, freshman forward at West Virginia, has come on strong as of late and is key to the Mountaineers success. He will be matched up against Dayton’s Chris Wright. Wright is underrated nationally and is a big-time defensive player. If Wright can keep Ebanks under wraps, Dayton’s chances for an upset increase.
“F” is for Final Four Coaches.
Don’t blink, you might miss a coach with a Final Four on his résumé roaming the sidelines. Rick Pitino (Louisville), Tom Izzo (Michigan State), and Bill Self (Kansas) all have won national championships, while Thad Matta (Ohio State) and Bob Huggins (Cincinnati) have been to the Final Four.
“G” is for Gene Smith.
It must be noted OSU got an awfully sweet site preference for an 8-seed in a year when the Buckeyes' athletic director, Gene Smith, is serving on the committee. Now, what’s the tie-in to ‘Zona making it?
“H” is for Hasbrouck.
Siena’s Kenny Hasbrouck is an explosive player with range and the strength and quickness to get into the lane and finish. He has become a solid defender as well, averaging 2.0 steals per game. He dropped 30 on Vanderbilt in a first-round upset last year and, as a 9-seed pitted against No. 8 Ohio State, should have better odds of the upset this season.
“I” is for Indianapolis.
This is where all these squads are hoping to be booking a hotel at next weekend. Two wins and they are on their way.
“J” is for Jayhawks.
The defending National Champions could have their hands full with the aforementioned Bison of North Dakota State. In what amounts to essentially a home game for the Bison (eight players on their roster hail from Minneapolis), Kansas better watch out. The Jayhawks won the Big 12 regular-season title with five new starters this season.
The last time Kansas was a three seed and played a gang of Bison? They lost to the Bucknell Bison in 2005.
“K” is for Kickingstallionsims.
This one was easy. The best name in the field belongs to Alabama State center Chief Kickingstallionsims, a transfer from Stetson who grew up in south Florida. As if being 7-foot-1-inch isn’t enough to make him stand out in a crowd, his full name is Grlenntys Chief Kickingstallionsims Jr. His father is Navajo, and his mother is part Norwegian and English.
“L” is for Louisville.
The No. 1 overall seed. The No. 1 team in the country in both polls. The 2009 National Champions?
“M” is for Morehead.
Without question, we all love Morehead. Morehead State ended the longest tournament drought in the field for teams that had been at least once. The Eagles last went to the tournament in 1984, when they lost to Louisville 72-59 in the first round. If Morehead State beats Alabama State in the play-in game, the Eagles will face Louisville again.
“N” is for No More Packer!
Finally, he is gone. Replacing Packer alongside Jim Nantz behind the microphone will be Clark Kellogg.
“O” is for One Shining Moment.
CBS executive Doug Towey originally paired the song “One Shining Moment” with tournament highlights in 1987, and the montage has been a tournament staple ever since. Towey, 61, died March 11 after a battle with cancer.
“P” is for Pac-10 Champions.
The USC Trojans had a nice run in the Pac-10 tourney, and if they keep playing with confidence, they have the talent to get to the Sweet 16—as long as Daniel Hackett can stay on the floor. Their backcourt depth is non-existent, and if Hackett were to get into foul trouble, a turnover-plagued team would be in big trouble.
“Q” is for Quiz.
Take this short NCAA Tournament quiz and test your knowledge.
“R” is for Rice, Tyrese and Mike.
Mike Rice of Robert Morris. In Rice's two years at the suburban Pittsburgh school, the former Pitt and Saint Joseph's assistant has won 50 games. This guy is going to ascend quickly up the coaching ladder. Also, Tyrese Rice is relentless; the engine that drives Boston College. He excels as a scorer and a distributor, and when on fire can carry this team.
“S” is for Sophomores.
This season was a down year for freshmen, especially when you consider the impact first-year players such as Kevin Durant, Michael Beasley, Greg Oden, and O.J. Mayo had in the past couple of seasons. But it was a huge season for sophomores, including key cogs Michigan State’s Kalin Lucas and Kansas’ Cole Aldrich.
“T” is for Terrance Williams.
T-Will hasn’t got much love from the postseason awards given out thus far, but he has gotten a sweet article written on him in Sports Illustrated. Why isn't the best player on the team with the best record in the best conference better known?
“U” is for Underseeded.
West Virginia has a slight gripe, especially if Utah is a No. 5. WVU has four Top 100 road wins and had one less win overall than the Utes in a much tougher league.
“V” is for Vikings.
Cleveland State is making its first appearance since 1986, when the Vikings made it to the Sweet 16 behind guard Kenny “Mouse” McFadden. Cleveland State coach Gary Waters was Kent State’s coach in 2001, when the Golden Flashes beat Indiana in the first round as a No. 13 seed.
“W” is for Wake Forest.
The former No. 1 Demon Deacons are back in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2005, and they have what it takes to make a deep run. They have strong guard play, led by Jeff Teague, and solid inside play led by James Johnson and Al-Farouq Aminu.
They also have a little history on their side: Wake was the last unbeaten team, starting 16-0 before losing to Virginia Tech on Jan. 21. In five of the past six seasons, the last unbeaten team went on to at least the Sweet 16. Two reached the NCAA title game, and one (Florida in 2006) won the national championship.
“X” is for X-Factor.
For all 16 teams' “X-Factor,” head on over to Yahoo! Sports/Rivals.com’s Midwest team capsules.
“Y” is for Youth.
With no seniors and only one junior starter, Ohio State’s youth will be tested. Wake Forest has only three seniors, and only one of them see more than a minute of action per game. West Virginia’s only senior, Alex Ruoff, will need to avoid putting up another scoring bagel as he did against Louisville on his Senior Night in the regular-season finale.
“Z” is for Zebras.
The referees as always are able to either let them play or control the tempo of the game. With the Big East squads known for their bruising style of play and swarming defenses, if the zebras blow a quick whistle, Louisville and West Virginia will have a much more difficult path to Detroit.