Before analyzing a few teams in the field of 64, let’s have some fun. Why wouldn’t we?
It’s time. The greatest sporting event in the Milky Way Galaxy is here. In fact, the arrival of the 2019 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament will have the Milky Way’s eyes down upon us. It’s that transcendent.
So, get your Momma’s guacamole dip recipe perfected. Certainly, make sure a friend is bringing plenty of chips to the party. Make a wise choice on your favorite beverage for optimum basketball watching. Let’s face the facts. We’re all superstitious. Especially when it comes to the NCAA Tourney and your favorite team, the wrong thirst-quenching liquid could send your squad down a very slippery slope.
With the official beginning of Spring on Wednesday, now is the time to let loose and have a little fun. We know this. Thursday and Friday mark the true beginning on the NCAA Tourney. Forget about the First Four games that took place on Tuesday and Wednesday. They don’t truly count as First Round Tournament games, and they never will in my mind. If you know me, I can’t stand the concept of the First Four games.
Thinking about the United States and the action of the orange, Thursday and Friday are also the least productive days of the calendar year in the workforce. You can bet that employees will be calling off sick in grooves and March Madness apps with live game action will be lighting up work desks and stations everywhere. Smartphones will be ablaze with college hoops mania from East Coast to West Coast.
How can anyone get work done with all of this entertainment value clouding their judgment? I have no idea. Plus, add your basic office basketball pool to the mix, and forget about anything in your corporation or company getting done on opening round Thursday or Friday.
These two days should be national holidays, folks. For me, I have to work 12-hour shifts at the hospital both days. So, I won’t be following any of the orange fun on my iPhone. Uh, psych. Are you kidding me? My phone will be on and poppin’, streaming live orange roundball coverage whenever there’s a chance.
Las Vegas will be feeling alive as the heavens with all of that coin changing hands. Yes, you can bet that bettors will be on edge. Maybe worse. Let’s not pray for the latter.
As for me, I will not be filling out a bracket for the first time in over 20 years. Why, you may ask? I’ll finally get a chance to watch the inevitable nail-biters without the dread of a busted, if not broken, bracket at the conclusion of this evening. Let me put it this way. Less stress, more enjoyment. You can’t argue with that.
Looking at the teams that could do some damage in this glorious one-and-done tournament, don’t take your peepers off the four No. 1-seeds. The Duke Blue Devils, Virginia Cavaliers, North Carolina Tar Heels, and Gonzaga Bulldogs all have the capability of winning six-straight games in order to cut down the nets and declare themselves national champions.
Of course, this is a tall order. Match-up problems, injuries, lack of energy on any given day or night, shots not falling. Any of these scenarios can be the difference between a national title, or an early exit. Again, that’s the illuminating beauty of the NCAA Tourney.
No. 1s Duke, Virginia, and UNC all reside in the ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference). If this doesn’t give you an idea of how tough the conference is from top to bottom, I’m not sure what will. Needless to say, these three ACC juggernauts are battle tested.
For Duke, their success will hinge heavily on the shoulders of super-freshman, Zion Williamson. If you’re not filling the lane with defenders against the Blue Devils, Mr. Williamson & Co. can put on a show called the Dunk-A-Palooza. You simply can’t let this happen while playing mighty Duke, or its lights out and nighty-night.
North Carolina can come at you in waves. That being said, slowing down guard Cameron Johnson and forward Luke Maye are the keys to having a chance to knock off the Tar Heels. On another note, I still can’t believe Duke and Carolina are separated by just eight miles of Tobacco Road highway.
What about Virginia? They were a No.1-seed last year as well. Unlike Carolina and Duke, they’ll have to dust off last season’s upset loss to the No. 16-seeded UMBC Retrievers (University of Maryland – Baltimore County). Yes, this was the very first time a No. 16 beat a No. 1 in the history of the Tourney. A remarkable accomplishment for UMBC. Now that UVa is etched into Tourney lore, seeing the mark of No. 1-seeds to No. 16-seeds shift to a record of 135-1, they’ll be hyped to prove doubters wrong in this year’s Tourney. Don’t overlook these Cavaliers, my friends.
Lastly, how about a team outside of the ACC? Okay. Gonzaga represents the WCC (West Coast Conference). This means that the Bulldogs were granted a No. 1-seeding while playing within a mid-major conference. Extraordinary. A word that describes the Zags’ program and Head Coach Mark Few. Gonzaga has been in the limelight year-after-year as a Cinderella, but now they have a target on their backs. To shoulder this load, look no farther than the best frontcourt in the country. The Zags have a huge advantage on the interior (pun intended). Look for Gonzaga to muscle opponents to their doom as they make their march.
Right now, the Zags are my favorite to cut down the nets and hoist the hardware at the home of the Final Four in Minneapolis, MN on April 8th.
Looking for a sleeper pick? Here’s one. The No. 12-seed Murray State Racers from the Ohio Valley Conference. They may very well have the best player in the nation in their court. The Racers’ 6-foot-3 and 175-pound sophomore guard, Ja Morant, just so happens to be averaging 24.6 points, 10.0 assists, and 5.5 rebounds per game this season. Not to mention shooting 50.3-percent from the field. Wow.
By Sunday evening, the field of 64 will become a mere 16. Here’s to hoping your team avoids or creates some bracket-busting chaos, and advances to the Sweet 16.