According to the basketball menu, if last week was the appetizer, then this week is the main course. Actually, this hoops week is the entire buffet, Las Vegas casino style.
The basketball gluttony starts at University of Dayton Arena with the “First Four” on March 17 and 18. The Flyers host, you guessed it, the first four games of the NCAA Tournament. Consisting of eight teams that debatably merited a tournament invite, the games are labeled as “first round,” but that’s a partial truth. It’s basically still a play-in game, as the winners move on to the traditional 64 team bracket.
The University of Dayton not only hosts the prerequisite qualifier, but this year they’re also a competitor… at home. It will be the first time in 28 years that a team will play a NCAA tournament game on its home floor, matching the Flyers and Jordan Sibert against the Boise State University Broncos. It does seem a bit unfair, but blue turf karma is a bitch. Winners will move on to their assigned regions and the Flyers hope to travel to Columbus, Ohio.
Yes; the city of Columbus, The Ohio State University and the beautiful Nationwide Arena will host second and third round games of this year’s national tournament. West Virginia, Buffalo, Maryland, Oklahoma, Valparaiso, Albany, Providence and the winner of the first round tilt will all start their journey to the Final Four in the gem just off Nationwide Blvd.
Meanwhile, Thad Matta’s 10th seeded Buckeyes will head to Portland, Oregon to face off against Virginia Commonwealth University (7th seed). The West region match up will be the first ever meeting between the two schools. Despite losing team-leader Briante Weber, the Rams won the A-10 tournament with an up-tempo offense and a defense that is so intense they refer to it as “Havoc”. Head coach Shaka Smart looks to recreate their magical run in the 2011 tourney, when VCU went all the way from First Four to Final Four.
If Shaka’s squad is instigating havoc then D’Angelo Russell needs to be, like Stuart Scott would say, “as cool as the other side of the pillow.” The freshman guard will have to do everything except sell popcorn if the Buckeyes are to upset the higher seeded Rams. Factoring style and talent, OSU vs. VCU could be one of the more exciting games of this NCAA tournament.
Neither of those teams beat Arizona in the next round anyway.
I know, I know, you’re thinking, but “what about the rest of my bracket?” Don’t worry baby bird, I’ll feed ya…
MIDWEST Region: Lets start with the number one overall seed, Kentucky Wildcats; they’re basically two NBA teams. So, put them in your final four and do what you want with the rest of the games in that region. Notre Dame could make a run, and keep an eye on the trap game that is the 5 vs. 12 matchup.
EAST Region: Wow, total crap shoot. Villanova has 32 wins, but, has snuck under the national radar. UVA is a coach’s dream and Sparty even makes an appearance as a 7 seed. Personally, I’ve got the college Cavaliers wining the East, like their pro brethren. If your thinking upset in this region, watch the 6 vs. 11 matchup.
WEST Region: It could be the most typical region of the four. Maybe the Buckeyes manage a tiny upset, but, I’m pushing favorites in this section only. In the final, it’s a coin toss between Arizona and Wisconsin.
SOUTH Region: Snow-globe region, meaning, it’s gonna be a shake up. Iowa State is red hot and never seems to be out of a game.
Buuuuuuut… Duke has Coach K and interior play from number one pick to be, Jahlil Okafor. I’ve got Duke, because otherwise I’d lose my Polish card. As for upsets, there could be a few; start with 4 vs. 13 in this region.
To recap, my final four is Kentucky, Arizona, Virginia and Duke.
If you’d like to compare brackets or just play for (free) fun then feel free to join our Tournament Challenge group. If you win, I’ll even proclaim your genius in a future “Now It’s Dark” article.
So, with a 1 in 9.2 quintillion chance of a perfect bracket, I wish you good luck!