And so the madness begins.
All of the preseason hype, weekly polls, constant shifting of power teams, surprising underdogs, unpredictable conference championships and newly-released NCAA tournament brackets have brought us to this moment.
Now is when the real work begins for 68 teams that have fought and battled their way through a long, grueling season to go from big men on campus to immortals by winning a national championship.
Before you go rushing to fill out brackets, mindlessly picking that first No. 16 seed to defeat a No. 1 seed, there are a few things you need to know. We've got all your viewing needs covered, as well as a glance at some overrated teams heading into the big dance.
2014 NCAA Tournament Dates
|First Round||Tuesday, March 18||Dayton, OH|
|First Round||Wednesday, March 19||Dayton, OH|
|Second Round||Thursday, March 20||Buffalo, Milwaukee, Orlando, Spokane|
|Second Round||Friday, March 21||Raleigh, San Antonio, San Diego, St. Louis|
|Third Round||Saturday, March 22||Buffalo, Milwaukee, Orlando, Spokane|
|Third Round||Sunday, March 23||Raleigh, San Antonio, San Diego, St. Louis|
|Regional Semifinals||Thursday, March 27||Anaheim, Memphis|
|Regional Semifinals||Friday, March 28||Indianapolis, New York|
|Regional Finals||Saturday, March 29||Anaheim, Memphis|
|Regional Finals||Sunday, March 30||Indianapolis, New York|
|Final Four||Saturday, April 5||AT&T Stadium, North Texas|
|National Championship||Monday, April 7||AT&T Stadium, North Texas|
Live Stream Information
All 68 2014 NCAA tournament games can be streamed at NCAA.com by clicking here. You can also stream them on your Android, iPhone or mobile device by downloading the NCAA March Madness Live app.
Syracuse Orange (27-5, 14-4 in ACC)
It's amazing to look at how the expectations have plummeted for Syracuse in such a short amount of time. On February 18, the Orange were 25-0 and ranked No. 1 in the country. They lost to Boston College the next day and five of their last seven overall.
ESPN New York's Rich Cimini may have caught on to Syracuse's plans with this tweet following its loss to North Carolina State in the ACC tournament.
If Syracuse's goal was to lower expectations before the NCAA tournament, it succeeded. #SnapOutOfIt— Rich Cimini (@RichCimini) March 15, 2014
Even with no expectations entering the tournament, Syracuse is still overrated. This team isn't going to make it out of the first weekend because it can't shoot. The Orange had six shots in the last 20 seconds to tie the game against NC State and couldn't make one.
Taking a deeper look at Syracuse's ineptitude on offense, it ranked 206th in field goal percentage, 235th in assists and 253rd in points per game. No matter how good Jim Boeheim's 2-3 zone defense is, if you can't score, you can't win.
Saint Louis Billikens (26-6, 13-4 in A-10)
It's funny to see how much Syracuse and St. Louis have in common heading into the NCAA tournament. The Billikens have fallen just as hard as the Orange, losing four of their last five games, including having their heart ripped out by St. Bonaventure in the A-10 quarterfinals.
ESPN's Andy Katz noted that St. Louis, which made it all the way to No. 10 in the AP Top 25, is dropping like a rock.
St. Bonaventure upsets Saint Louis. Billikens seed taking a hit the past few weeks. A-10 could be wild weekend.— Andy Katz (@ESPNAndyKatz) March 14, 2014
The biggest difference for St. Louis now and when it was steamrolling through the A-10 is on defense. In the first 27 games, opponents scored 70 or more points just four times and two of those came in overtime games.
In the last five games, St. Louis has allowed at least 70 points three times. Since the Billikens don't have a high-powered offense, they have to play stout defense to win games. With that gone, there's no reason to think this team can make it out of the first weekend.
Kansas Jayhawks (24-9, 14-4 in Big 12)
There was a time when Kansas looked like the best team in the country. Of course, that was before Joel Embiid went down with a back injury that no one has any concrete answers about.
Head coach Bill Self released a statement (via ESPN.com) prior to the Big 12 tournament that Embiid was dealing with a stress fracture in his back and admitted the star center playing the first weekend of the NCAA tournament is a long shot.
Next weekend, we feel like is a longshot, but the doctors are hopeful that if Joel works hard in rehab and progresses that it is possible that he could play in the later rounds of the NCAA Tournament if our team is fortunate enough to advance.
The Jayhawks are loaded with talent, starting with Andrew Wiggins, but have only played up to that potential sparingly. They enter the NCAA tournament on a down note, losing to Iowa State in the semifinals of the Big 12 tournament and losing three of their last five games.
Their defense has been atrocious, allowing 92 points to West Virginia and 94 to Iowa State. Despite being ranked No. 3 in the country in RPI, without Embiid, Kansas has no hopes of making it past the Sweet 16.
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