Selection Sunday is merely hours away. The fate of 68 teams will be unknown no longer.
Perhaps no single day of the NCAA basketball season is more enjoyable for college basketball fans. It's like Opening Day in baseball. Every team in the tournament is starting out, hypothetically, with a chance to win a national title. Maybe this is the year a No. 16 seed wins it all. C'mon Wofford.
More importantly, your bracket hasn't been completely annihilated yet, and that $1 billion bounty is still within your reach.
Here's the viewing info for Sunday's selection show, followed by three teams who are a threat to go far in the Big Dance.
When: Sunday, March 16, at 6 p.m. ET
Live Stream: March Madness Live
Teams to Watch
You can't blame Rick Pitino for trying. The Louisville Cardinals are destined for at least a No. 2 seed, but that didn't stop their head coach from planting the seed into the minds of the selection committee, per ESPN's Andy Katz:
Rick Pitino just said at news conference he thinks Louisville should be a No. 1 but doesn't think they will be a No. 1.— Andy Katz (@ESPNAndyKatz) March 16, 2014
The Cards lost to North Carolina, Kentucky, Cincinnati and Memphis twice, which gives you pause when considering their tournament potential.
But don't forget that this is largely the same team that won the national title last year. Peyton Siva and Gorgui Dieng are gone, but Russ Smith, Luke Hancock and Montrezl Harrell remain. In this year's jumbled field, Louisville is more than capable of repeating.
The Cardinals also appear to be saving their best basketball for the second half of the season. They beat SMU on the road and then throttled Connecticut at home, before beating the Huskies in the AAC tournament final.
Duke Blue Devils
As a rule, it's never a good idea to rule out a Mike Krzyzewski-coached team.
The Blue Devils could just as easily implode in the NCAA tournament as they could get to the Final Four. They're often over-reliant on their three-point shooting, neglecting the defensive half of the game. The loss to Syracuse back on Feb. 1 was a perfect example of this, as Duke was essentially trying to go shot-for-shot with the Orange in the overtime period.
However, The Charlotte Observer's Laura Keeley saw a decidedly different Duke team on Saturday against NC State:
All year (and every year), Krzyzewski has focused and talked about the team’s defense, despite their plethora of offensive weapons. Saturday afternoon, he said he might have overcoached in preparation for Warren, deciding during the course of the game to let Hood defend him the way he preferred, eliminating some of N.C. State’s uncontested backdoor cuts.
The result was arguably Duke’s best defensive half of the season, setting the Blue Devils up for their first shot at a postseason championship.
Duke is a definite boom or bust team. Jabari Parker's such an explosive player that if he gets hot, he could almost single-handedly carry the Blue Devils all the way, a la Carmelo Anthony with Syracuse in 2003.
Iowa State Cyclones
Iowa State took a different tactic when dispatching the Baylor Bears in the Big 12 tournament final: The Cyclones played defense.
Baylor was held to 34 percent shooting in the second half, and the Bears ended up at 40.5 percent at the end of the game, down about five percent from their season average.
The Cyclones, on the other hand, finished at a cool 50 percent.
Any team will have a hard time countering Iowa State's trio of Melvin Ejim, Georges Niang and DeAndre Kane. Opposing coaches are pretty much left to pick their poison. They can't stop all three, so they have to pick one or two for their defense to hone in on.
Iowa State also gets some flak for what's perceived to be a bad defense. After all, they're giving up 73.9 points a game.
However, a lot of that is down to the Cyclones up-tempo offense, which gives the opposing teams a lot of possessions. Ken Pomeroy puts Fred Hoiberg's team at 54th in adjusted defense, at time of writing.
ISU's run to the Big 12 title illustrated that it's prepared to make a deep run in March, whether it's relying on the offense, or the defense.
All stats are courtesy of NCAA.com.