The state of Kentucky is known for basketball. Kentucky is a national powerhouse, Louisville, under Denny Crum and now Rick Pitino has done it's share of winning as well. Then there is tiny Morehead State, located in the northeast corner of the state. It is this tiny school that has produced the top-rebounder in college basketball since 1973.
Kenneth Faried has grabbed 1643 rebounds, topping Tim Duncan's record. Better yet, his 84 career double-doubles are tied for second in NCAA-history with Ralph Sampson. Not bad for a guy that stands 6-7, 182 pounds. This season, Faried is averaging 17.6 points, 14.5 rebounds.
Pitino and the Cardinals are plenty familiar with Faried. The schools are located only 130 miles apart and this marks the second time in three seasons they've met in the NCAA tournament. In 2009, the Cardinals turned a two-point game at halftime into a 20-point blowout. Faried had 14 points and 11 rebounds that day.
Now he's back for the Eagles (24-9), along with teammates Demonte Harper and Terrance Hill.
Louisville's roster, meanwhile, has been almost completely turned over, one of the reasons Pitino predicted this would be a "bridge season," not one in which Louisville would contend for the Big East title. The Cardinals were picked to finish eighth in their 16-team conference.
"I called it a bridge year, saying we were going to build something special," Pitino said. "I just didn't know when the bridge will be complete."
MY PICK: Louisville - Morehead State is a nice story, but Rick Pitino is a big-time coach.
One of my earliest memories of the NCAA Tournament came in 1984 when the Richmond Spiders, a small, little known school upset a Charles Barkley-led Auburn Tigers team. The Spiders did it again in 1991, this time against No. 2-seed Syracuse. In 1998, it was as a No. 14 seed that Richmond knocked out South Carolina. Anytime I see Richmond on the line, especially at the No.12-seed, I have to seriously consider taking them.
This year their opponent is Vanderbilt, a No. 5 seed but hardly a great team. The Commodores have stumbled in their last two appearances in the tournament, losing to No. 13 seed Murray State on a last-second shot last season and falling to Siena, another 13th seed, in 2008.
A spotty track record in the tournament of late has led many to deduce that Vandy's ripe for an upset, especially since 12 seeds have a history of springing big wins in the tournament.
MY PICK: Richmond - Who am I to bet against destiny? That, and the fact that Richmond has won 7-straight games heading into the Tournament.