Every year on Selection Sunday, I look over the gift from above that is the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament bracket and I realize I do not know nearly as much about college basketball as I thought I did. I cram my brain full of information until Jay Bilas is yelling at me in my dreams until I waste enough hours to finally feel somewhat familiar with this year’s tournament. Preview time!
Player to watch: Unsurprisingly, I’m going with Ohio State’s Evan Turner; even if you’ve only seen his name on ESPN’s BottomLine, it’s enough to see how much of a beast he has been this season. He is also a dream-killer after what he did to Michigan in the Big Ten tournament, but this is probably a good quality to have this time of year.
Intriguing first round game: (7) Oklahoma State versus (10) Georgia Tech. Two relatively equal teams with more talent than their seeds would suggest. Something about this game makes me think of a chicken running around with its head cut off.
Future round game I would like to see: Ohio State versus Kansas. Because everyone seems to be picking Kansas, I will find a different national champion for my bracket. Although it pains me to say this, Turner and the Buckeyes look like the team with the best chance of defeating the Jayhawks before the Final Four.
Lower seed to watch out for: Northern Iowa. They would have to face Kansas in the second round but play the smart, staunch type of basketball that can make an NCAA tournament game closer than you think it should be. I will call them a “tough out,” as I’m obviously feeling pretty creative right now.
Player to watch: Wesley Johnson, Syracuse. The Orange will need their guards even more in the first two rounds, or probably just the second round, with Arinze Onuaku out for the weekend. Johnson could be the difference between Good Syracuse and Great Syracuse.
Intriguing first round game: (5) Butler versus (12) University of Texas El Paso. I know Butler is good and I know they could be a threat in later rounds of the tournament. As for UTEP? Well, I know they’re located in Texas. All I keep hearing about is how they are the 12 seed most likely to advance in the first round. Hence, this intrigues me.
Future round game I would like to see: Butler versus Syracuse. Anytime you hear about Syracuse, you will most likely hear the phrase “2-3 zone” following close behind. Butler is the kind of team that could put some stress on that zone.
Lower seed to watch out for: Murray State. I looked at them immediately because for some reason I never trust Vanderbilt. Turns out the Racers had a pretty successful year, finishing at 30-4. I don’t have many concrete reasons other than those, but I’m going with it.
Players to watch: Everyone will be waiting to see how freshmen John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins handle all of the tournament firsts that will be thrown their way. This is pretty much the only bad thing I could think to write about these two.
Intriguing first round game: (6) Marquette versus (11) Washington. The Golden Eagles always seem to be involved in close games and although the Pac-10 was largely—and rightfully---ignored this season, Washington has Quincy Pondexter. His name might sound like pocket protectors and suspenders, but that’s just to lure you into a false sense of security.
Future round game I would like to see: Wisconsin versus Kentucky. It may be a bit of a stereotype at this point, but it’s true; Wisconsin can make a pretty team like Kentucky ugly. Smart, senior guards who limit turnovers and keep transition opportunities scarce could hang around longer than the Wildcats might like.
Lower seed to watch out for: Cornell. The Big Red will be put to the test in the first round against Temple, but I will support any school that the ‘Nard-Dog, Andy Bernard, calls his alma mater. Here Comes Treble!
Player to watch: Ekpe Udoh, Baylor. I have boarded the Baylor bandwagon in large part because of Udoh. His game is exciting on both ends of the court, plus, his name is fun to say.
Intriguing first round game: (7) Richmond versus (10) St. Mary’s. Again, most of these first round games are intriguing for me because I haven’t really seen the teams play this season. And Richmond’s nickname is the Spiders; I think that’s a weird choice.
Future round game I would like to see: Baylor versus Villanova. There are plenty of good guards could be on display in one game with Scottie Reynolds, Tweety Carter, Corey Fisher and LaceDarius Dunn.
Lower seed to watch out for: Siena. This pick is popular because of Purdue’s bad luck with Robbie Hummel, but Siena has been here and done this before. They advanced past the first round in the last two NCAA tournaments.