The month of March is a breath of fresh air, especially when it really starts to kick in. After the confetti fell on the Seahawks in early February, sports fan have had to exist on the excitement of the Sochi Olympics, mid-season NBA action and pitchers and catchers reporting. But now, baseball’s getting closer to Opening Day at the end of the month, the free-agent period swings into full gear this week in the NFL and, yes, NCAA basketball is about about to rear it’s 64-plus heads once again! March Madness is about to engulf the nation as it does every year, where Mary from Accounting’s bracket is every bit as good as yours as far as the office pool is concerned. I know it’s early, but make sure you have one of these teams winning the whole thing when you finish filling out your bracket later this month.
Quick! Who was Florida’s men’s basketball coach before Billy Donovan? That’s what I thought. Who cares? Billy D has guided the Gators to 16 straight seasons of 20 or more wins, including back to back national championships in 2006-2007. This season Donovan just completed a first in that his Gators finished their SEC schedule 18-0. Never been done before. Billy also did it with a team rich in senior leadership. Four seniors start for Florida in a league that has grown accustomed to the one and done. They’re the #1 team in the nation so, at the risk of sounding like Captain Obvious, make sure you have Donovan’s Gators winning the whole thing in at least one of your brackets.
WICHITA STATE SHOCKERS
It’s hard not to like Wichita State, slicing through their regular season like a hot knife through margarine in undefeated fashion. What are they going to be like when adversity sets in for real? Will they know what to do on the big floor, away from the warmth of the Missouri Valley Conference where they obviously feel very comfortable playing? The fact of the matter is an undefeated Wichita State team on Selection Sunday guarantees coach Gregg Marshall a number one seed in the Big Dance, as well it should. Marshall has just won his third consecutive MVC Coach of the Year Award for a reason. The man knows how to coach. Cleanthony Early and Ron Baker have to shine if they’re to make some noise. This year, anything can happen.
DUKE BLUE DEVILS
The coach of the national basketball team that wins gold on occasion, the winningest coach in NCAA history, is also still with Duke. Year in and year out Mike Krzyzewski attracts the best talent to Durham and coaches ’em up. Sometimes there’s a national championship at the end of the season and we’ll see if this year bears fruit, with Coach K and the boys on a ladder cutting down the nets…again. Are they having their best year ever? No. Not even close. Are they still a dangerous team heading into tournament time? You better believe it! Jabari Parker is one of the best players in the nation and if they get a favorable draw and get hot, their chance is as good as anybody’s.
Let’s face it, Rick Pitino can get the most out of his team come tournament time, he’s that special a coach. Even though they may not be considered one of the nation’s best at this writing, they still have to be recognized as a team that knows how to get it done, especially considering what they went through last year on their way to the national championship. This year Russ Smith is the leader of a tough and talented team that may be peaking at the right time. It’s important for teams to have a certain grit about them and the Cardinals certainly do. They’ve earned a spot at the top of one of my brackets.
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