With the field set, Cinderella's slippers polished, and the Goliaths ready to wage war with each other, the 2010 NCAA Tournament is upon us.
Here is a comprehensive look at the top 65 storylines and reasons to be excited for this year's NCAA Tournament.
1) The Selection Committee gave fans about a dozen more reasons to hate everyone's favorite team to hate, Duke.
A) The Blue Devils ended up a No. 1 seed ahead of West Virginia. The Mountaineers not only won the Big East, the hardest conference tournament in the country, but finished with more noteworthy wins than Duke.
B) Mike Krzyzewski's club is a one seed ahead of Syracuse. You know, the same Syracuse team that once it reached the top three never dropped from the top three. The same Syracuse team that lost just one road game and its four losses come against two three-seed teams and a nine seed.
On top of the one seed issues, Duke somehow received a slumping Villanova as its two seed and Robbie Hummel-less Purdue team as its four seed. The selection committee gave Duke a gift.
2) For every titan like Duke, there's a little guy waiting for his chance. One of the 16 seeds, Lehigh , has the unfortunate task of taking on the No. 1 overall seed, Kansas, in the opening round.
But for the Mountain Hawks, this provides a chance to gain valuable experience because Lehigh could be poised to be a Cinderella in years to come.
Highly efficient scorer C.J. McCollum is just a freshman, averaged 18 points per game, and was named the Patriot League's Player of the Year.
By the time McCollum is a senior, he could lead Lehigh into the dance as a team poised to knock off a three or four seed rather than as a 16.
When a team like Lehigh wins its conference tournament, a court rush always ensues. Here's an inside look of Lehigh's court rush that I captured from the Patriot League Tournament Final.
3) Can West Virginia's Da'Sean Butler do it again? By "it," I mean knock down another game-winner. To catch you up to speed on what Butler has accomplished with the buzzer sounding, check out College Hoops Journal's documentation of his game-winners.
Butler's Mountaineers have a favorable draw in the East Region and likely won't face a real test until potentially Kentucky in the Elite Eight.
4) While on the subject of star players, how about the one player from a 16 seed who could scare the daylights out his opponent? That would be Marqus Blakely from Vermont. Syracuse fans already have nightmares about Vermont because of this , but 'Cuse fans must deal with Vermont again without Arinze Onuaku and against this:
Syracuse should still be fairly easy winners, but Blakely is good enough to keep Vermont in the game for awhile.
5) The business firm that comes out with the yearly prediction that American companies will lose a billion dollars in productivity because of the NCAA Tournament needs to get a life.
Yes, some productivity is obviously lost, but, at the same time, how many Americans already sit at work and waste 15 minutes, a half-hour, an hour, or even two hours a day online doing things they aren't supposed to? Heck, odds are at least half of you reading this article right now are at work.
Plus, we all need the occasional release. This tournament affects four work days. Without great events like this we can laugh, cheer, cry, and share with each other, life would be a lot more boring. So save us next year and don't report how much productivity American businesses will lose. Nobody cares.
6) If you want the most entertaining basketball game in the first round, tune in to Clemson-Missouri . Both teams press their opponents to death and are made up of some entertaining athletes.
Just remember, Clemson students created a device to measure how hard Trevor Booker dunks. I believe the first rating that came back confirmed Booker impregnated the rim with his dunk.
7) Calling the games of many of the teams already mentioned will be Gus Johnson. He'll be in Buffalo with West Virginia-Morgan State, Clemson-Missouri, Syracuse-Vermont, and Gonzaga-Florida State on the docket.
I cannot wait to see how he describes the floppy-hair platoon that is Gonzaga.
8) Almost every year, it seems there are a couple of mid-majors carried by star players. Davidson and Stephen Curry or even North Dakota State and Ben Woodside last year come to mind. This year, that mid-major star is harder to come by.
One great candidate is Anthony Johnson of Montana . He's an outstanding player with an even better story. He torched Weber State for 42, including 34 in the second half of the Big West Championship Game. You can watch that carnage here .
But more importantly, you can watch this must-see video on how Johnson ended up at Montana.
9) Another "mid-major take over the game" candidate is Houston's Aubrey Coleman. The slick shooting guard leads the country in scoring, but his Cougars showed they can win without an excellent game from him.
In the Conference USA Final, Coleman was at one point 2-of-17 from the field, but his team still defeated UTEP behind another stellar guard, Kelvin Lewis.
Lewis is first in the country in NOT turning the ball over and gives Houston a dynamic duo that could give Maryland fits. Tom Penders's club underachieved all season, but this team is talented enough to make a run to the Sweet 16.
10) DeMarcus Cousins plays his first two games in New Orleans. Obviously John Calipari will keep Cousins and the rest of his Kentucky Wildcats on a short leash in New Orleans, but the amount of trouble they and the other seven teams can get into while in the Big Easy is endless.
All jokes aside, Kentucky has the most talent in the country and can be the most electric team in the country when John Wall is given the open court to make plays that don't belong in college basketball.
11) Without March Madness, ESPNU wouldn't be able to create the hilarity that was the ESPNU Madness Marathon. And for anyone that saw Lowell Galindo, Laphonso Ellis, and Mike Kelley Sunday and Monday night on the U, you know those who didn't see it missed out. Here's some excerpts from my account of the show from Twitter:
"ESPNU is playing a thumbs up/down. They are using paper thumbs instead of their own thumbs. And people say the economy is bad. What a waste."
"WILD BILL SIGHTING! The jiggling of his arms is epic."
"I'll send Tastycakes to the first person that comes up with a Laphonso Ellis jaw dropping screen shot."
To those of you who saw Laphonso Ellis's jaw drop Sunday on the show, I will send you send you Tastycakes for that screenshot. It could be the new Internet meme.
12) The Midwest Region is stacked. And guess who plays in it? The No. 1 overall seed, Kansas . What a gift for the Jayhawks (the need for a sarcasm font is so necessary for that sentence).
The only two teams that beat them this year are of course in the bracket (Oklahoma State and Tennessee). The likely National Player of the Year, Evan Turner, is in the bracket.
Maryland, Georgetown, and Georgia Tech also all have wins over current No. 1 seeds.
Of course, if Kansas gets through that region, it might have to meet up with Syracuse, not in the National Championship game, but in the National Semifinal.
Dear Selection Committee,
We understand you do most of the regional placement based on geography, but you couldn't throw Kansas a freaking bone?
13) The NCAA Tournament is played on a total of 11 days. That means you have justifiable excuses to order pizza and wings 11 times or find your favorite watering hole and lay claim to the same bar stool for 48 hours of basketball during the first weekend of the tournament.
14) Evan Turner . Evan Turner. Evan Turner and Evan Turner. He wins ball games. He does everything. You've seen the shot, but I picked this video because, well, listen to the fan at the :38 second mark.
Yeah, that fan knows what's up.
15) Cornell's hoping its close-knit basketball team will result in a first-round victory that will march the Big Red closer to a national title. This is a team where 13 of its members all live in the same house, giving Cornell an Animal House-like feel to it.
After all, this is a team that has the smarts to figure out a Rubik's cube and the basketball skills to take the No. 1 overall seed, Kansas, down to the final minutes in Lawrence.
Coach Steve Donahue has the unfortunate task of going up against his former mentor as Temple's coach, Fran Dunphy, used to have Donahue on staff when Dunphy toed the sideline at Penn.
16) On the theme of New York's mid-majors, Siena is looking to do the unthinkable: win three consecutive opening-round games as a MAAC school.
The selection committee gave the Saints a gift in drawing Purdue in the opening round, as the Boilermakers frankly cannot score anymore without Robbie Hummel.
Without the slick-shooting forward, Purdue has scored an average of .65 points per possession against the two NCAA Tournament teams it's faced without him.
Some still doubt Siena's chances to win this game because it's questionable whether Siena can handle JaJuan Johnson in the paint.
However, if Ryan Rossiter is the "Big East-caliber" center he's developed into, then Siena should have girth in the paint to knock off Purdue and send the Saints to the round of 32 once again.
17) As Pete Thamel of the New York Times points out, only in March could Arinze Onuaku's quadricep get a Twitter account.
18) I then responded to Pete and pointed out: Only in March could there be a bracketology scandal. Yes, there is a bracketology scandal. I write that once more: There is a bracketology scandal. Take that in and realize how absurd that sounds. [Editor's Note: That original link doesn't work anymore: read here to find out why.]
19) Derrick Favors has a chance to wow NBA draft scouts on the national stage. The Georgia Tech power forward has had a solid freshman season but hasn't quite been the star recruiting services projected him to be.
With a winnable opening-round game against Oklahoma State and then a shot at Evan Turner and Ohio State , Favors has a chance to make a real statement.
20) Burn, baby; burn. Notre Dame's burn offense is all the rage in South Bend after the coaching staff remade the Irish attack.
Instead of uptempo basketball that resulted in Notre Dame being one of the worst defensive teams in a major conference, ND has slowed things down to improve the defense and keep the offense operating at a high level.
21) Have to run an errand during the opening weekend? CBS released its coverage maps of the first round of the tournament.
Now you know when you'll get a lackluster game on the television you won't want to watch. Though the correct reaction to that last statement is: There are NO lackluster games in the NCAA Tournament.
22) Here's a small reminder why Kansas should not be happy with its draw.
In a small twist of irony, Bruce Pearl's son, Steven, has received minutes for the Volunteers as a walk-on. Steven Pearl is just 3 for 15 from the free-throw line this year. Aren't coach's sons supposed to be the ones who are fundamentally flawless?
23) Before the season, I wrote Oakland has one of the deadliest trios in the country. The school's SID liked what I wrote so much they included it in their game notes. That trio hasn't disappointed. Point guard Jonathan Jones, forward Derick Nelson, and center Keith Benson dominated the Summit League.
Coincidentally, Oakland plays Pittsburgh, whose student section is nicknamed the Oakland Zoo. Go figure.
24) If the NCAA Tournament were solely based on best nicknames, the 15-seeded UC-Santa Barbara Gauchos and the 15-seeded North Texas Mean Green would meet in one half of the Final Four.
The other half would be the 14-seeded Sam Houston State Bearkats against the 9-seeded Wake Forest Demon Deacons.
25) Continuing on this theme of nicknames, the selection committee really must have wanted to screw with announcers. There's the 5-12 game featuring the Texas A&M Aggies and Utah State Aggies. Then there is also the 7-10 contest that pins the Clemson Tigers vs. the Missouri Tigers.
26) While March Madness is a time to relish the joy and jubilation it brings, it must be noted that Murray State will be playing for t he mother of reserve guard Picasso Simmons , who died in a car accident this week.
27) Florida wouldn't have even been in the tournament if it weren't for this:
28) In the department of "definitely didn't see that coming," Temple loses Dionte Christmas and two other seniors from last year's Atlantic 10 Championship squad, but the Owls improved this season.
That's right: The Owls are even better and enter the tournament as one of the best defensive teams in the field.
29) Staying on the theme of outstanding coaching jobs: Pitt's Jamie Dixon loses seniors Sam Young, Levance Fields, and Tyrel Biggs, as well as DaJuan Blair to the NBA draft, but it doesn't matter much.
Pitt is a three seed with a bunch of players you still probably won't recognize. This Pitt team is tough on the defensive end of the floor, a trait not known to Pittsburgh basketball during Young and Field's tenure in the Steel City.
30) And one more in the department of outstanding coaching: How bout Buzz Williams? He started as a student-manager and eventually made his way to the top of the coaching ranks to land a job in Milwaukee.
He lost one of the greatest senior classes in school history but still has this Marquette team in the tournament as a six seed. He's clearly great at boosting team morale.
31) Okay, so there is one more guy who needs to get some credit for the coaching he's done. Many preseason bracketologists didn't project Bo Ryan's Wisconsin team to make the NCAA Tournament, and those who did had the Badgers as a pretty low seed.
But Wisconsin is a four seed and poses logistical nightmares for the one seed in its region, Kentucky.
32) Morgan State's Todd Bozeman has resurrected his career in Maryland, coaching in the MEAC. He's turned the Bears not only into a league power but into a team capable of knocking off the big boys.
Morgan State played several major conference teams tough this year but knocked off Maryland and DePaul last season. If a 15 is going to be a two seed this year, it will likely be this Morgan State team against West Virginia.
33) Want to pick a team seeded third or worse to win the NCAA Tournament? That pick should be Baylor.
The Bears play a 2-3 zone, which is tough to prepare for in a tournament setting, but they are also one of the best offensive teams in the country. They've got bona fide stars in LaceDarius Dunn, Ekpe Udoh, and Tweety Carter.
34) Wofford made the NCAA Tournament for the first time. Wofford is just fun to say. WOOOOOFFFFORD. But on a serious note, this team plays enough defense to give Wisconsin a scare. The Terriers beat South Carolina and Georgia and gave Pittsburgh a serious scare in the season opener.
35) March Madness All Season lists the top 32 three-point shooters. If you haven't seen the guys at the top of the list play this year, make sure you catch them. Mickey McConnell might only play one tournament game this year, so make sure you watch him against Richmond.
36) Speaking of Richmond , this club is one of the most beautiful basketball teams to watch. Its offensive execution is easy on the eyes, as the offense's top two components, Kevin Anderson and David Gonzalvez, make up one of the best backcourts in the entire tournament.
37) Jordan Crawford, the player Kevin Anderson surprisingly beat out for Atlantic-10 Player of the Year honors, could carry his Xavier Musketeers into the Sweet 16 or beyond. Crawford's team improved dramatically in the conference schedule after a not-so-good performance in the non-league slate.
38) Florida State has a mammoth frontline that starts with 7'1'' center Soloman Alabi. He's improved offensively this season, but the rest of the Seminole squad really hasn't.
It will take a small miracle for Leonard Hamilton's club to keep up with high-scoring Gonzaga in the first round and Syracuse in the second.
That means the celebrating Florida State did after the Old Spice Classic will be their only tournament title.
39) The start of March Madness means there will be dozens of websites making their brackets about anything and everything.
For instance, The AWL determined a national champion by school tuition. Florida and Utah State, two of the last at-larges to make the field, should be playing in that bracket's play-in game.
There's also this visually appealing bracket on Esquire.com .
40) Sometimes Kentucky basketball and John Wall transcend the basketball court.
Only in Kentucky.
41) And only in Kentucky could a coach want a worse seed. That's right, Rick Pitino wanted Louisville to be seeded lower.
42) In the first round, Louisville draws California, who is inexplicably an eight seed after losing the Pac-10 Conference Tournament Final. Between Cal and Washington as an 11 seed, the Pac-10's only two teams in the tournament might not sniff the second round. Gosh, that league is bad.
43) Time for statistical oddities. According to kenpom.com , Brigham Young is the seventh best team in the nation, making its seven seed highly surprising. The Cougars often win by monster-sized margins, inflating their efficiency margin throughout the season.
The Cougars are good, but they aren't that good. Ken Pomeroy's system is great for evaluating teams, but don't fill your bracket out solely by efficiencies.
Those who did that last year ended up with Memphis winning the national title. Ask Memphis fans how that prediction turned out.
44) Sticking in the Mountain West, New Mexico and San Diego State outscored the MWC by the same margin, but one is a three seed and the other is an 11. Don't be surprised if both end up in the second round and only the second round.
45) The two worst teams in the field according to Ken Pomeroy? That would Winthrop and Arkansas Pine-Bluff , who rank 212th and 238th respectively (however, those ranks aren't respectable). Those two will tip off in the play-in game Tuesday night. I guess the selection committee did get something right after all.
46) Utah State has the best student section in college basketball. We can only hope USU wins its first round game to hear this chant on CBS:
47) People keep talking about Ohio State's and Georgetown's lacks of depth, as each squad really only plays one, sometimes two guys off the bench.
Those two schools might face each other in the Sweet 16, which means we could get 40 unbearable minutes of announcers talking about their short rotations.
48) For the longest time, people called James Anderson "the best player you've never heard of." If you follow college basketball, you know the Oklahoma State swingman can take over the game and beat anybody.
If you actually are new to the party, welcome to college basketball, and catch up on what Anderson can do here .
If you want the short version, take in this alley-oop:
49) You've made it 3/4 of the way through the 65 best reasons to be excited for this tournament. Here's your reward: Check out Ballin' is a Habit's best hairdos in college basketball.
50) I searched and searched to find something interesting about East Tennessee State's basketball team. The best I could come up with has nothing to do with basketball, but Kenny Chesney graduated from ETSU. He must have been one proud Buccaneer on Selection Sunday.
51) In the women's tournament, the selection committee actually got things somewhat right. Connecticut (the team that hasn't lost since 2008) has the easiest path of the four No. 1 seeds to a national title.
So, yes, in terms of competitive fairness, the selection committee got it right, but what they got wrong is that by giving Connecticut a cakewalk to a title viewers now have one less reason to watch this tournament. Good one, NCAA.
52) In another ridiculous move by the NCAA selection committee, Duke is the top seed in the South and Syracuse is in the West. Why is that ridiculous? Because if the Orange reach the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight they'll be playing the same days as the East Regional located in...Syracuse.
There will be a lot of empty seats and tickets for sale in Central New York. That reason alone should have been enough to keep the 'Cuse locked into the South.
53) On the front page of Lexy.com , you'll see John Calipari, Jim Boeheim, Fran Dunphy, and Bob Huggins. Those four coaches are "audio tweeting" their thoughts about the tournament through the months of March and April.
Sign up on Lexy to hear what those coaches have to say. You can even leave them messages, and some users might even get responses from the coaches.
54) Word on the street is if Xavier and Butler reach the Elite Eight in the West Regional, the game will only be replaying the final minute of this disaster:
55) If you love soccer, then Northern Iowa basketball is for you. The Panthers play so slowly, scoring is hard to come by. So if you enjoy cheering for scores only a few times per game, then jump on the Northern Iowa basketball bandwagon.
56) Ten reasons left to be excited, so it's time to start hyping the favorites. With all the negativity towards Duke earlier in the list, it's time to be positive about the Blue Devils. If you can get past Jon Scheyer's face:
then you'll recognize he's one of the best point guards in the game. With outstanding range and an eye for his teammates, Scheyer quickly became one of the most dominant point guards in college basketball.
57) Sticking with Duke, the Blue Devils have the best alliterated trio in sports since the Houston Astros had the "Killer B's" with Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, and Derek Bell.
Jon Scheyer, Kyle Singler, and Nolan Smith are arguably the best trio in college basketball. Those three don't have much help, but when that trio shoots the ball well Duke is unbeatable.
58) West Virginia is the anti-Villanova. Instead of starting four guards and one forward, West Virginia starts four forwards and one guard. You would think that would be a disaster waiting to happen, but the Mountaineers make it work as all the forwards have solid, if not outstanding, mid-range games.
Their athleticism also helps them on the offensive glass, as WVU ranks second in the country in offensive rebounding.
59) Talent, talent, and more talent is what John Calipari has at Kentucky . And to credit Calipari, he's done an outstanding job mixing his star players' games together to create a basketball product that is nearly unbeatable.
60) While the most exciting thing about Kentucky might be what John Wall can do in the open court,
The most important thing might be the way Kentucky's role players shoot the three-ball. Many teams might try to zone out the Wildcats, which means UK will inevitably have to knock down the long ball. Darius Miller and Darnell Dodson: Be prepared to hit some big shots for Coach Cal.
61) If Syracuse wins the national title, it will be more fitting for CBS to play this montage with that music:
Assistant Coach Rob Murphy recorded the rap song "Shut It Down" before the season started, and it quickly became this team's anthem after the Orange decided to emphasize the defensive end of the floor this year.
Of course, Murphy's song influenced Syracue student Jake Ober to record his song, which is equally as catchy.
62) Odds are Kansas won't need a half-court buzzer beater to win any of its tournament games since the Jayhawks are the best team in the country.
But if KU does need a half-court shot for the win, opponents are going to have one difficult time figuring out who they need to guard.
63) After a shaky start to the season with Tyshawn Taylor's scuffle with the football team and Brady Morningstar's arrest, it looked like only Kansas could derail its own season.
Bill Self got his team through those problems, and now Kansas is the overwhelming favorite to cut down the nets in Indianapolis.
64) Kansas literally doesn't have a glaring weakness. The Jayhawks shoot the ball well, defend the inside and outside well, rebound well, and have a go-to guy, a dominant center, great role players, and sweet celebration chant to boot.
65) One Shining Moment. Not much more needs to be said.
For more updates on college hoops, follow @JamesonFleming on Twitter. Jameson will be covering the East Regional Finals in Syracuse as well as the Final Four in Indianapolis for Bleacher Report.
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