Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Sports

NCAA Tournament primer

Not everyone follows college basketball. But everyone loves March Madness.

For many, college basketball season starts this week with the NCAA Tournament. Maybe that's you.

Maybe you don't know who is the starting point guard for Kansas or even the name of the coach of Gonzaga.

You just know the basics. Duke and Kansas are always really good. And a team will come out of nowhere to make a serious run at the title.

So this is for you, a quick Two Cents primer to get you ready for one of the best sporting events in the world, in case you are just now starting to pay attention.

Player you won't be able to stand before it's over

Ole Miss guard Marshall Henderson did the Gator chomp after his Rebels beat UF in the SEC title game, made fun of defending champ Kentucky being relegated to the NIT, and called the SEC coaches "losers." If he plays against your school, get ready for him to moon your cheerleaders, figuratively speaking, of course. Come to think of it, maybe literally.

Team you should root for

Here are two: Northwestern State and Iona, a pair of run-and-gun teams that happen to be the two highest-scoring clubs in the country. Unfortunately, they are long shots with Northwestern State going up against the Gators and Iona playing Ohio State. That means you have to look for a team that has a legitimate chance of going deep. How about Ohio State? Thad Matta runs a good program. It has a fine tradition but only one NCAA title, and that was way back in 1960 with Jerry Lucas. Plus, how cool would it be to tell Urban Meyer that he coaches at a basketball school?

Best Cinderella candidate

Who will be this year's Butler or Gonzaga? Well, for starters, it won't be Butler or Gonzaga. Those programs are so good they are no longer the little engines that could. Heck, Gonzaga is a No. 1 seed. Here's a true Cinderella candidate: No. 11-seed Belmont. The Bruins from Nashville have won 17 of 19 coming into the tournament and are one of most accurate shooting teams in the country. Guard Ian Clark is averaging 18 a game and shoots 54 percent from the field. If you're looking for a big upset tonight, check out Belmont against struggling Arizona, which is 5-5 in its past 10.

Team you cannot predict

Would you have much faith in a team that lost to Kentucky, Alabama and Arkansas and is 0-5 in games decided by single digits? Well, that's Florida. And oh, I'd feel better about second-seeded Miami if I thought the ACC didn't have a down season.

Coach you should root for

UCLA's Ben Howland has a 233-106 record since taking over in 2003. In 10 seasons, he has taken the Bruins to the NCAA Tournament seven times, including three trips to the Final Four. Yet there's a report that even a run to the Sweet 16 might not be enough to save Howland's job. Seems the people at UCLA still aren't satisfied with anyone not named John Wooden. Don't be surprised if the Bruins are upset by No. 11 seed Minnesota, but it would be great to see Howland go on a run to stick it to those at UCLA who want him out.

Coach you should root against

There are plenty of coaches who might not be bad guys, but they are just, I don't know, annoying. Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, top left, has had enough success. Louisville's Rick Pitino, bottom, is no choirboy. And Syracuse's Jim Boeheim spends half his life looking for stuff to complain about and the other half actually complaining about it. I wouldn't mind seeing all three bounced right away.

Bracket buster

I'm bullish on St. Louis, VCU, Butler and Wisconsin, but all are a No. 6 seed or higher. For a true underdog, watch Oregon, which got a raw deal being seeded 12th in the Midwest. Not only do the Ducks play solid defense, they have one of the top rebounders in the country in Arsalan Kazemi. Look for them to give Oklahoma State fits today.

Best player you don't know

South Dakota State guard Nate Wolters was fourth in the nation in scoring this season, averaging 22.5 points. Deadly from 3-point range, Wolters had a 53-point game this season when he chucked in nine 3-pointers. His matchup tonight against Michigan's Trey Burke could be the highlight of the second round.

No. 1 seed most likely to be upset

One of the more famous streaks in sports: No No. 16 seed has ever upset a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Last year, Syracuse beat UNC-Asheville by seven and that was the closest anyone has come since 1997. Eventually, it's going to happen. Which No. 1 seed is the most vulnerable this year? Maybe Kansas against Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers have a kid named T.J. Price who scored 21 in last year's tournament against eventual champion Kentucky. Plus, the Jayhawks do tend to lose interest at times.

Then again, don't be surprised if Kansas wins the whole thing. That's what makes March Madness so mad. And so special.

     
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