March Madness Preview
SLAMonline’s college basketball experts weigh in on upcoming the NCAA Tournament.
Is there a specific team, player or coach that you feel needs to have a good Tournament showing?
CB: I would look at the entire Kentucky program as one that “needs” to have a long Tournament run that ends with cutting down the nets in New Orleans. It would solidify the great career of John Calipari (I do think he is one of the all-time greats), add to the storied legacy in Lexington and also boost the Draft stock of several Wildcat players. Although, some don’t really need any boosting right about now.
DC: This is the year that John Calipari needs to win a title. He has the best team, and he’s in the softest region. I think it’s a near lock that we see Kentucky in New Orleans, but anything short of a title is a disappointment for Calipari and Big Blue Nation.
Where are you going to be watching the first few days of the Tournament? Where should someone be watching the Tournament?
CB: I will be watching the first week of the NCAA Tournament in two places. During the days I will be at home on my own couch with my own television. At night, I am usually working at the local ESPN Radio affiliate in Denver, so I will have a couple games at once going on there. I am partial to the home-viewing as it lets yourself be the “big remote in the sky” and dictate at which times you want to watch which games. Bars can be pretty fun, but then you have to deal with EVERYONE telling you that they picked the upset. Well, on one of their pools. JUST FILL OUT ONE BRACKET, PEOPLE! Personally, I am militant about this credo.
DC: I’m watching them at home with my brother. I think it’s best to watch a game anywhere that you are in charge of the remote. You need to be able to switch to the best game and not miss anything.
JJ: Anywhere that carries truTV in the cable lineup.
On a personal level, what’s your favorite March Madness memory?
CB: Two instances of the NCAA Tournament stand out most for me personally. One being when Jimmy V and the NC State Wolfpack won the 1983 title. It was the first event I was fully engrossed with and started me on my true love for college basketball. But my most memorable moment was when Kansas won the 1988 title behind my favorite college player of all time, Danny Manning. My room was plastered with images of Manning (and Jordan and ‘Nique) and I will never forget watching that game at my parent’s old house in Evergreen, CO. An awesome game as a whole with Manning going mano y mano with Oklahoma’s Stacey King, but even more memorable as I know I was draped in my classic “Beak ‘Em ‘Hawks” shirt.
DC: Back in 2009, I made the trip up to Boston for the East regional. I was the Villanova basketball writer for the student newspaper at the time. In the Elite Eight, the Wildcats faced off against conference rival Pittsburgh with a spot in the Final Four on the line. While the whole game was an intense back-and-forth battle, nothing could beat Villanova’s last shot – a coast-to-coast drive for Scottie Reynolds that ended with the game-winning layup.
JJ: My favorite March Madness childhood memory is watching Tyus Edney’s buzzer beating, full-court dash to the hoop for a floater to beat Missouri. But my top memory overall has to be playing in Sweet 16 (for Cornell) in the Carrier Dome versus Kentucky. Losing the game was awful, but memories from before the game—running out on the court and seeing red-clad Cornell fans outnumbering Kentucky’s maybe 10 to 1 –are unforgettable.
Is there a team that you would like to succeed this March?
CB: During my 30 years of closely watching college basketball, I have always had an affinity for Kansas and Gonzaga. I always want to see them do well and this year is no different. The Jayhawks, I think are the most atheistically pleasing team to watch in the country. They play a great mix of tough defense (when right, they are the best) and high-energy, attacking offense. And player of the year candidate Thomas Robinson and his story are tough to rout against. The Zags, on the other hand, have now become a bit of a running joke in the Tournament as they are always there (13 straight years), always have a good team, but never seem to make that long run their rabid fan base would love to see. Actually, maybe this is the year Gonzaga makes a long run! Then again, I say that every year.
DC: With my alma mater (Villanova) out of this year’s field, I’m not really rooting for anyone, but I’d like to see Temple do well. Fran Dunphy is one of the most underrated coaches in the country, and I think a deep Tournament run would give him the recognition he deserves.
And now for some Tournament picks. Who are the most overrated teams?
CB: I think the most overrated team is Syracuse. They are at times, nasty and when fully-loaded they can be impressive team to watch, but I am just not completely convinced they are “that” team this year. Jim Boeheim has proven he can take a team far in the postseason, but I just have this feeling that they will be the first No. 1 seed to fall. Another team I am not enamored with is Ohio State.
DC: Georgetown is a solid team that is capable of winning a game or two, but I think it’s a bit of a stretch to have them as a 3-seed. I just have a hard time figuring out how to committee thought they were a better team than Michigan or Louisville. Other than that, there are no gripes with the higher seeds.
And finally, which team is the favorite to win it all?
CB: This one might be the easiest in several years, Kentucky. Not that this will be a cakewalk for the Wildcats, but in my opinion it has been awhile since we’ve had such a clear-cut favorite. I think the distance between UK and Syracuse, Carolina, Kansas and the rest is quite substantial. Deep, talented, athletic and well-coached.
DC: The best team all year has been Kentucky. Even with the loss in the SEC title game to Vanderbilt, there is little reason to worry about the Wildcats. Anthony Davis’ presence in the paint makes Kentucky not only the best team, but the best defensive team, as well.
JJ: I think all of the Number 1s have pretty similar shots at cutting down the nets in New Orleans. Out of those four teams, Syracuse might have the easiest road, but even the Orange have significant roadblocks along the way.