So, are your brackets busted? For me, the Michigan State Spartans have always been a thorn in my side. I usually have little respect for Sparty and for years that's killed me. This year, despite the Spartan rocky road of a season, I picked MSU to make a deep tournament run. Once again, the Spartans have killed me.
Alas, Friday is a new day and I have plenty of white out. Let's break down all of today's matchups, starting first with the East Region, where the top-seeded Buckeyes get their tournament underway this afternoon.
Cleveland will be in the spotlight when Villanova and George Mason tip-off just after 2:00PM this afternoon. For 'Nova, this season has quickly turned into a nightmare. After starting the year 16-1, the 'Cats have struggled, going just 5-10 since January 17. That includes a current 5-game losing streak and a first round exit in the Big East Tournament at the hands of South Florida.
As for the Patriots, who can forget their historic run to the Final Four a few years ago? Unlike Villanova, George Mason comes into the NCAA Tournament winners of 16-of-17. That loss, however, came to VCU in their conference tournament.
MY PICK: George Mason - When March comes around you have to be playing your best basketball. Villanova isn't just losing games recently, they are getting blown out.
I'll have more about the Buckeyes game a bit later, but there might not be a more lopsided matchup in the field of 64 than this one. I will say this about the Roadrunners, they come into the game with some confidence, having won their past 6 games, and no fear.
MY PICK: Ohio State - No. 1 seeds are 105-0 against No. 16 seeds. 'Nuf said.
After winning the 2009 National Championship, the Tar Heels missed the NCAA Tournament all together in 2010. After starting out this season at 4-3, with losses to Minnesota and Illinois, people along Tobacco Road were nervous to say the least. Then the Tar Heels got hot, and haven't looked back since. UNC is 14-2 over it's last 16 games, both losses coming at the hands of the Duke Blue Devils.
The Blackbirds present an interesting opponent for the Tar Heels. They, too, come into the Tournament red hot, winners of 13 games in a row, 21 of their last 22. LIU can also score, they are 4th in all of college basketball, averaging 82.6 points per game. It's also a battle of two great rebounding teams - UNC is No. 1 in the NCAA, averaging 42.5 rebounds, while LIU is 3rd averaging 41.8
MY PICK: North Carolina - I'll take the Heels, but something tells me this game could be closer that Roy Williams would like it to be.
Not many people know the name Tu Holloway. After the 2011 NCAA Tournament, I have a feeling that will change in a big way. Holloway, the Atlantic 10 Player of the Year, is the leader for a Musketeers team making it's sixth straight NCAA Tournament. His 20.2 points leads Xavier in scoring - as he goes, so go the Musketeers.
"He's a very great player," Marquette guard Jimmy Butler said. "He can shoot it. He can drive it, rebound it, distribute the ball as a guard."
Marquette enters the Tournament after a solid performance in the Big East Tournament. Wins over Providence and west Virginia sealed their ticket and now the Eagles want to make some noise.
MY PICK: Xavier - I really like Xavier a lot. They, along with Michigan State, are the only teams to make it to the Sweet 16 the past three seasons. MSU is gone, but Xavier can make it four in a row this year.
Washington is a long way from home. 3000 miles, to be exact. It's the longest trip for any team in this year's tournament, but one the Huskies feel they deserved after losing 3-of-4 to end the regular season. Washington rebounded to win the PAC-10 Tournament, but the damage was already done.
The Bulldogs are one of the controversial teams in the bracket, making the Tournament over teams that many felt were more qualified - like Colorado or Virginia Tech - still, they are hear, pretty close to home, and look forward to the opportunity.
"It's a grand opportunity to be at this point and still be playing," forward Trey Thompkins said. "I feel like our team is mature enough that we can handle the fact that we're in the tournament very well. Coach (Mark) Fox has done a great job of keeping us focused and worried about the task at hand and worrying about Washington. Not looking forward, not looking back."
MY PICK: Washington - The Huskies get backup point guard Venoy Overton back and that will only add to the depth UW has in the backcourt.
Indiana State in the NCAA Tournament. Talk about having a 'Hoosiers' feel. Larry Bird's alma mater is back in the tournament, staring a match-up with the match-up of Syracuse. The match-up zone that is.
The zone is a human flytrap of sorts. Venture into its middle and risk getting your shot swatted or the ball stolen at your feet. Dribble into the court's corners and expect to be double teamed by swarming defenders. There is no easy way around this mobile, 10-armed, 10-legged monster.
To prepare for it, Indiana State actually practiced against six defenders - using hockey sticks. Radical, but what do the Sycamores have to lose?
MY PICK: Syracuse. The Orange are primed and ready for a deep Tournament run. It'll be fun to see Indiana State on the floor, however.