The field of 65 is set, so let the games begin, baby! It's March Madness -- and it should be something special.
Think about all the upsets in conference-tournament play. That should tell you how competitive the Big Dance should be this year.
So you are wondering about my pick to win it all? Nothing has changed since day one. The last two years, I picked the national champion in my preseason magazine, Connecticut and Michigan State.
Duke -- East
Maryland -- West
Arizona -- Midwest
Michigan State -- South
USC -- East
Arkansas -- West
Wake Forest -- Midwest
Texas -- South
This year I went with Duke, and I see no reason to change my pick. The Blue Devils should get an additional boost since Carlos Boozer is expected to be back during the NCAA Tournament. The big question now is the health status of Jason Williams, who hurt his ankle Sunday against North Carolina.
Duke is certainly coming into the NCAA Tournament with a lot of momentum. The win over the Tar Heels on Sunday was so impressive, dominating in all aspects of the game. Coach K's team plays unselfishly. There is no jealousy or envy, just Duke playing team basketball.
FINAL FOUR PICKS
My Final Four picks are as follows: I see Gary Williams and Maryland finally breaking through and making it to Minneapolis from the West Region. They would play Duke (from the East) there in round four of this heavyweight epic battle. Let's hope it's as great as Saturday's ACC semifinal was.
In the Midwest, I see Arizona advancing to the Final Four. Loren Woods has been more aggressive lately and Gilbert Arenas has been scoring well. Woods will have a great tournament. I'll go with Michigan State in the South.
COMMITTEE DID THE JOB
How about a salute to Mike Tranghese and his committee; they did a fantastic job and followed the book, taking the best 34 resumés. I feel bad for the mid-majors who are in a tough situation, trying to prove themselves.
As I said on my Web site yesterday, the super six conferences were going to get 29 of the at-large bids. I was lucky that it worked out that way.
The committee has to reward the teams that play the best. I thought the draw was fair. You can always find something to question, but all in all, they did a great job.
I will say this: The committee made several interesting potential second-round matchups. Duke and Coach K could meet protegé Quin Snyder and Missouri. What about Lefty Driesell possibly facing Maryland? Arizona's Woods could face his former school, Wake Forest. First the Demon Deacons have to face a tough Butler team that almost knocked off Florida last season. The Gators went on to the Final Four.
SLEEPERS TO WATCH
Among the sleepers to watch: Out West, Nolan Richardson's Razorbacks showed how dangerous they can be with their late run last season. The Hogs have a tough draw with Georgetown, then a possible date against Jamaal Tinsley and Iowa State.
USC is a team few people are talking about. Henry Bibby's club has the talent to surprise, led by forward Sam Clancy.
Texas, before losing to Oklahoma in the Big 12 final, was playing as well as anybody. Chris Owens, Maurice Evans and company have a challenge against Lynn Greer and John Chaney's Owls. With a win, the Longhorns could give Florida a battle.
Lots of people have talked about Georgia State because Driesell is taking his fourth different school to the Big Dance. Let me tell you, the Panthers can flat-out play. Start with the guards, transfers from big-name programs. Shernard Long came from Georgetown while Kevin Morris left Georgia Tech. They are seasoned veterans, used to pressure. Thomas Terrell, the 6-foot-7 MVP of the TAAC tournament, can score and rebound.
I don't consider Gonzaga a sleeper any more since it made the Elite Eight and Sweet 16 over the last two years.
Georgia State plays solid defense and faced a respectable schedule that included Georgia and Creighton. Remember, Georgia State beat the Bulldogs in the season opener.
I don't consider Gonzaga a sleeper any more since it made the Elite Eight and Sweet 16 over the last two years. Mark Few's team is dangerous with a healthy Dan Dickau in the backcourt and Casey Cavalry up front.
Iona is back in the Dance and Jeff Ruland's team has experience and desire. The Rebels of Mississippi could have a tough test in the opener.