NATIONWIDE – Now that the conference tournaments are over, and now that the NCAA Selection Committee has done its job, and now that the selections made have provided the talk show “experts” with ample fodder to voice their opinions and complaints about ”seeding” to anyone who will listen, the reason for the term “March Madness” has come to the forefront. The NCAA Division I Mens’ Basketball Tournament to crown the National Champion has arrived and it is time to play basketball.
The 2014 Tournament promises to be as exciting and unpredictable as any played yet. The Florida Gators are picked by many to overcome all challenges to win the National Championship. But that is not a certainty, by any means. Florida is the top seed in the South Region, Arizona in the West, Virginia in the East and Wichita State in the Midwest. All face tough tournament games in their bids to win it all.
The Pacific 12 Conference was awarded six slots in the tournament seeding. Arizona, as the Number One seed, will be joined by Oregon in the West Region. PAC-12 Champions UCLA went to the South, as did Stanford and Colorado. Arizona State represents the PAC-12 in the Midwest Region. Of note the Cal-Poly Mustangs, of San Luis Obispo earned a place in the Tournament as one of the “First Four” teams, playing for the right to get to the Second Round to play Wichita State.
Both UCLA and Arizona play in San Diego on Friday, March 21st. The Arizona Wildcats get into a cat fight with the Wildcats from Weber State, while the UCLA Bruins take on the Tulsa Golden Hurricanes.
On Thursday, March 20th, the Arizona State Sun Devils tackle the Texas Longhorns in Milwaukee while the Oregon Ducks are taking on the BYU Cougars.
The Stanford Cardinal will face the New Mexico Lobos in St. Louis on Friday March 21st, and the Buffaloes of Colorado travel to Orlando to do battle with the Pittsburgh Panthers.
The dream rematch between UCLA the PAC-12 Tournament Champs and Arizona, the Conference Champions and one of the No. 1 seeds in the tournament, is a possibility, but a very remote one. The Bruins would have to emerge from the South Regional, where, if they get through the first two games, they would face the Florida Gators, the team that is, in many minds, destined to be National Champions. Meanwhile, Arizona, in order to win the West, has to win four unpredictable games in a bracket loaded with talented teams.
The six PAC-12 teams who made it to the Tournament all face tough opponents in tough brackets, and none but Arizona is expected to be one of the teams who get to Arlington, Texas, as one of the Final Four.
If the seedings predict the true story of which teams will constitute the Final Four, then Arizona will be one.
In today’s college basketball scene, it appears that the long sought for parity level has been reached. The talent and athleticism displayed by so many young basketball players is something to behold and appreciate. In an effort to clean the game up, the Rules Committee of the NCAA has made several badly needed changes, by taking hand-checking, body bumping, and a few other defensive tricks out of the game.
But they did not address a few of the important problems that ultimately must be removed from the game: who initiates the contact when an offensive player attempts a shot; the movements made by a player attempting to set a screen or trying to take a charge under or near the hoop; and the elbow hooking by an offensive player to control the defender guarding him. When those tough to judge areas have been tackled and cured, along with the removal of the wrestling of “the bigs” near the basket, the game will be much more enjoyable.
Nobody can truly predict who will emerge as the National Champion, even though it appears that some teams are markedly better than others. There will be surprises and a few upsets on The Road to the Final Four. Team pride, personal egos and the chance to beat higher ranked or seeded teams, in order to get to the Championship game all fuel the lesser regarded teams and makes for good basketball games.
There is just one thing to remember above and beyond the opinions expressed by those who are paid to express them: your opinion is just as good as, and probably as accurate as any expressed by anyone else. In any case, this will be another tournament worthy of remembering.
By Luke G. Conley III