The best weekend in sports is upon us as the opening rounds of the tournament will be played this weekend and the field will be cut in half in four days. It has been an interesting year in college basketball as there has not been one truly dominant team all year.
Every year, the Selection Committee bursts the bubble of teams that some believe should be in the field and there are some legitimate arguments for teams that were left out. However, the field is set and the tournament will go on.
I have to give the selection committee some credit here in how they set up the bracket. They have provided us with some great match ups that will make this surely one of the more exciting tournaments.
Here are seven match-ups in the tournament, some already set and some hypothetical, that could make this March Madness great.
This is the first time Oakland has had a seed better than 16 in the tournament and this is because of center Keith Benson. The 6'11" senior has been having a great year, averaging 18 points and 10 rebounds per game. He had some of his best games against quality opponents like Oakland's win in Tennessee when he went for 26 points and 10 rebounds.
If Oakland wants any chance to upset Texas, Benson will have to win the battle down low against their top freshman, Tristan Thompson. This should be a great player match up in the opening round.
The Big East Conference is sending 11 schools to the Big Dance this year, which is a new record for most teams from one conference in the tournament. They had one school get the top seed (Pittsburgh), one two seed (Notre Dame), and two three seeds (Syracuse and UConn).
The Big East has been arguably the best and toughest conference this year and it will be interesting if they are able to show it in the coming month. The Selection Committee also has the brackets set up where this is a legitimate chance to have an All Big East Final Four with Syracuse coming out of the East, UConn coming out of the West, Pittsburgh coming out of the Southeast, and either Louisville or Notre Dame coming out of the Southwest.
No one, it seems, has been able to stop this senior guard from BYU and there is no reason to think he can't continue his success. Last year in the tournament he was able to get BYU to the second round for the first time in 17 years with an OT win against Florida. They did lose their second-round game to Kansas State but between those two games he averaged 29 points per game.
Fast forward to this game and he has averaged 28.5 points per game the whole season with four games scoring over 40 points and scored 52 points in a win against New Mexico in their conference tournament. Jimmer should be able to get his team past 14 seed Wofford but without suspended teammate Brandon Davies, BYU probably won't advance much further than the second-round.
As a head coach in college basketball, Steve Lavin has gone to the Sweet Sixteen almost every year and it looks like he might do it again in his first season with St. John's. Before his current job he was the head coach for UCLA from 1997-2003 and went to five sweet sixteens in six years.
He was fired after his first losing season in 2003 and spent some time in TV before agreeing to coach St. John's before this season. He is now leading the sixth seeded team (hopefully) to the Sweet 16 again where he might meet his former employer, and seventh-seed, UCLA Bruins.
The Bruins would have to pull an upset over Florida but it would be a great storyline to see Lavin take on his former team in his first Sweet 16 with his new team.
Coach Boeheim and Coach Roy Williams are two of the top coaches in college basketball and faced off in the 2003 Championship game when both coaches were looking for their first championship title. At the time, Roy Williams was the head coach of Kansas and the Orange were a little bit better that day led by Carmelo Anthony and secured Coach Boeheim's first title.
Soon after that game, Coach Williams left Kansas to coach the Tar Heels and has gone on to win two titles in his time since then. This year, these coaches once again have a chance to meet, this time in the Sweet 16 and would be a great chess match between two hall of fame coaches.
If UNC is able to get past Syracuse it will set up a battle between top freshman between Ohio State's Jared Sullinger and UNC's Harrison Barnes, who was the first freshman in 24 years to be voted to the preseason All-American before playing a minute at the college level.
Barnes struggled a little bit in the early part of this season but has played much better as we went through the season and even put up 40 against Clemson in the ACC Tournament. Sullinger on the other hand has dominated almost immediately stepping on the floor and led Ohio St. to the top overall seed. He has averaged 17.2 points and 10.1 rebounds per game.
If both teams are able to get to the Elite Eight, this will be a great match up to determine who really is the top freshman player this year.
One of the best rivalries in sports is Duke vs. UNC, who most recently met in the ACC Championship game. Duke got the better of their rivals and won the title. Now the bracket is set up where this rivalry could be played on the biggest stage, at the Final Four, taking this rivalry to a whole new level.
Duke, led by Kyle Singler and Coach K, would have to beat Coach Williams and freshman Harrison Barnes for the third time in four tries this year if they hope to go on to their second-straight championship game. This would be a great match up for a Final Four game and the excitement around this game would be off the charts.