After a long season and back-and-forth conference tournaments, the field of 64 is set for the 2010 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship. Though our hometown Highlanders failed to reach the tournament for this season, the field is as intriguing as ever, with many new faces and without last year’s champs, the North Carolina Tar Heels.
The bracket is headlined by the four No.1 seeds: Kansas, Kentucky, Syracuse and Duke, with Kansas as the overall number one at the end of the season. Kansas controls their destiny in the Midwest bracket, with notable teams No.2 seed Ohio St., No.3 seed Georgetown, and No.4 seed Maryland, in considerably the toughest region. Other sleepers in the Midwest include Michigan State, Tennessee and Oklahoma State, who are all expected to compete with the top seeds.
Kentucky, the overall number two team in the nation at the end of the season, will play in the east bracket with the likes of No.2 seed West Virginia. The east is a bit of a head-scratcher, as the No.3 seed is New Mexico, who is not known for its experience in the dance, but have had a great season. Wisconsin sits as the No.4 seed, followed by Temple, Marquette, Clemson, Texas and Wake Forest.
The west bracket will be very interesting as well, with Syracuse at the top, but strong and talented Kansas State sitting as the No.2 seed, who I believe has a chance to push their way to the Final Four. Pittsburgh, Vanderbilt and Butler round out the other notable teams in the west, but expect Xavier, Brigham Young, Gonzaga and Florida State to make things interesting.
The last region, the south, is controlled by the ACC champions, the Duke Blue Devils, which is coincidentally also home to the only two teams to reach the tournament out of Virginia, which was neither the University of Virginia nor Virginia Tech, but instead No.7 seed Richmond and No.11 seed Old Dominion. Villanova retained the No.2 seed, with Baylor, Purdue and Texas A&M rounding out the top five seeds. The Big South champion, the Winthrop Eagles, who ended the Highlanders’ season in the conference semifinals, are in the play-in game with Arkansas-Pine Bluff for the No.16 seed, and a chance to play against Duke in the first round.
From a fan’s standpoint, it’s never good to see teams like North Carolina and Connecticut out of the field, but it just makes the tournament that more exciting since anything can happen. Most people around the world have filled out multiple brackets right now, but for those of you who haven’t, here are some teams to look into, instead of staying generic, with either Kansas or Kentucky ruling the field. As I said before, Kansas State has the power to mix things up, but don’t leave out West Virginia and Ohio State, who have Final Four talent. When trying to pick upsets, I’d look at teams like No. 9 seed, Northern Iowa out of the Midwest, No. 12 seed Cornell out of the east, No. 5 seed Butler and No. 11 seed Minnesota, out of the west and unexpected No. 3 seed Baylor out of the south.
If I had to pick my final four today, I’d have Kansas facing rival Kansas State on one side, and Kentucky facing either Baylor or Villanova on the other. From there, it’s all about whoever is playing the best ball, and those teams will have the best shot to reach the finals. That’s the great thing about college basketball; it’s not about what you did in the beginning of the season, it’s all about how your team is playing when it comes down to crunch time.
Cover and story photo from Creative Commons