Welcome to March Madness, baby!
We are closing in on Championship Week, then Selection Sunday and the best three weeks in sports. I love the Big Dance as it is so special. We see David-and-Goliath matchups. There is so much drama, passion and emotion.
Right now, the beauty of college basketball is shown by the top teams. Does it really matter who is No. 2 and 3 right now? Well, it matters when you get a No. 1 seed for the Big Dance.
I think three of the top four seeds are pretty well set. I don't see it changing, as Syracuse, Kansas and Kentucky have put together a strong body of work.
As we push through the next two weeks, there will be a battle for that fourth No. 1 seed. Duke has a big matchup with Maryland, and if the Blue Devils beat the Terrapins, they will be right there to get that No. 1 seed. Schools like Kansas State, Purdue and Villanova are still in the hunt, though the Boilermakers could have a hard time with Robbie Hummel sidelined for the rest of the season with a torn ACL.
It will be interesting to see how Kentucky responds after a recent loss at Tennessee. How do the young kids respond come tournament time? The Cats have three diaper dandies starting, and they account for the majority of the offense (except for Patrick Patterson). Kentucky has had a problem making the 3-point shot. You have to be concerned about its youth.
I am also excited about the big games coming up. Many of them will determine whether or not a team goes to the tournament. Look at Connecticut at Notre Dame. That is a major game, and so many teams have similar résumés, with 17, 18, 19 or 20 wins and slightly above-.500 records in league play.
Look at a team like Florida, which has to face Vanderbilt and Kentucky before the SEC tournament. The loss to Georgia was big; if the Gators lose three in a row to close the regular season, it could be tough on Billy Donovan's club. The perception in the eyes of the committee -- not good.
Illinois should be in the field of 65, but it might take another win or two to lock up a bid. I see a squad like UAB out of Conference USA with a 23-5 overall mark, but the Blazers might need to do a little more. A lot of teams still have to close out the deal. It is fun to track the teams on the bubble, battling, scraping and clawing to make the field of 65.
Looking ahead, I love the experience of Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich of Kansas. The 2-3 zone of Syracuse is a monster; it is so active and teams don't face it very often. The Orange is playing so well, and Andy Rautins is better than you think.
March Madness is the best time of year. This year's NCAA tournament should be wacky because there is so much parity in college basketball. There is excitement galore, my friends. It is awesome, baby, with a capital A!