All that's left now is the basketball. The 68-team field is set for the 2014 NCAA tournament.
The Louisville Cardinals enter as the defending champions. After a rough patch between December and February, Rick Pitino's team has found its footing and is in a great position heading into March.
This year's tourney seems even more open than in years past. The playing field between those at the top and those lower down the totem pole only decreases with each season. There's so much talent at the high school and community college levels that not everybody can play with Duke, Kentucky, Kansas, Florida, Arizona, etc.
That bridging of the talent gap only makes college basketball more fun for fans, and no event is more fun than the Big Dance.
Here's a quick preview for this year's tournament.
|2014 NCAA Tournament Schedule|
|First Round||March 18-19||TruTV|
|Second Round||March 20-21||CBS, TBS, TNT, TruTV|
|Third Round||March 22-23||CBS, TBS, TNT, TruTV|
|West Regional||March 27 & 29||CBS, TBS|
|South Regional||March 27 & 29||CBS, TBS|
|Midwest Regional||March 28 & 30||CBS, TBS|
|East Regional||March 28 & 30||CBS, TBS|
|Final Four||April 5||CBS, TNT, TruTV|
|National Championship||April 7||CBS|
Once again, CBS and Turner Sports are partnering up to bring fans the NCAA tournament. All 67 games will be broadcast live across CBS, TBS, TNT and TruTV. That will be especially good in the early rounds, when you have three or four games on all at once.
Something of note is that CBS won't be broadcasting the national semifinal games. Instead, that has fallen on TBS for the first time in tournament history.
But that's not all.
The coolest TV feature of this year's tournament is what the NCAA is calling "Teamcasts" for the Final Four, which will air on TNT and TruTV.
According to the NCAA press release, "The 'Teamcast' productions will be tailored specifically to the teams competing to provide fans with a variety of viewing options for this year’s marquee event."
There's no doubt that the combination of Greg Anthony, Steve Kerr and Jim Nantz will appeal to every college basketball fan, for whatever reason. The "Teamcast" is a fun experiment and should offer a little bit for everybody.
Should the "Teamcast" prove successful this year, it's interesting to see how it could grow in the future. Maybe it will feature in earlier rounds of the tournament and possibly spill over into the regular season for the more marquee matchups.
ESPN earned a lot of praise for its "Megacast" of the BCS National Championship between Florida State and Auburn, so it appears that tailored, team-specific coverage will become the norm for the biggest games of the year.
Go ahead, laugh.
Many will be favoring the Florida Gators or Arizona Wildcats to go all the way. But the Gators lack a volume scorer who can provide the difference when his teammates are struggling, and too much is resting on the shoulders of Nick Johnson to see the Wildcats winning it all.
Syracuse is a team that shouldn't be dismissed too much. Few coaches are as good as Jim Boeheim when it comes to March. The Orange came into last year's tournament as a No. 4 seed with a 26-9 record, and they made it to the Final Four.
This year 'Cuse enters the tournament as the No. 3 seed in the South region. They'll play No. 13 Western Michigan.
A stretch of four losses in five games between Feb. 19 and March 1 saw Syracuse drop way down in the polls, but this is still a team that spent three weeks ranked No. 1, and before that, eight straight weeks at No. 2.
You know that the Orange's patented zone defense can cause a ton of problems for teams in the NCAA tournament. The problem will be scoring. According to Sports-Reference.com, they're averaging 68.3 points a game, 250th in the NCAA.
Chris Carlson of Syracuse.com also noted that Syracuse's regular-season scoring margin doesn't bode well for their tourney chances:
This year the Orange ranks just 33rd in the country in scoring margin, beating opponents by nine points, well behind nearly every other team expected to gobble up a top seed.
Among the past 16 national champions, Syracuse's point margin is better than just one, the Connecticut team in 2011 that was led by Kemba Walker and is widely considered the biggest fluke in recent history. The Orange is better than just four of the 32 recent national finalists.
Syracuse is no doubt a bit of a long shot to win it all, but between the shooting of Trevor Cooney, scoring of C.J. Fair and floor leadership of Tyler Ennis, it could put everything together to make a shocking run to the national championship.
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