March Madness is here.
After four and one-half months of play, the 351 eligible Division I teams were cut to 68 to determine the 2018-19 NCAA national champion at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis in the 81st edition of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament.
Teams like Gardner-Webb and Abilene Christian are making their tournament debuts while Kentucky increases their total to 58.
There are unique storylines for every game and matchup for what should be another fantastic tournament filled with crazy upsets and great basketball to end the season.
The tournament kicked off Tuesday and Wednesday night with the First Four games with the Round of 64 games on Thursday and Friday and the second round games on Saturday and Sunday.
The first weekend of the tournament is one of my favorite times in sports. Games run nearly nonstop for 12 hours on the first two days. I love it.
A lot of eyes around here will be focused on what Kansas and Kansas State do.
The Jayhawks enter the tournament as the No. 4 seed in the Midwest Regional after falling to Iowa State in the championship game of the Big 12 tourney. Kansas is 25-9 and will face Colonial Athletic Association Tournament champion Northeastern Thursday at 3 p.m. on TBS.
The Huskies finished 14-4 in the CAA in the regular season and defeated Hofstra to punch their ticket to the tournament.
The 23-10 Huskies will rely on their 3-point game to attempt and upset the Jayhawks and give the CAA their first tournament win since James Madison won their 2013 matchup against Long Island in the First Four.
This is also the first time Kansas is a No. 4 seed since 2006. That season saw the Jayhawks fall to Bradley.
Unless the Huskies get hot beyond the arc, the Jayhawks should be able to advance to the next round where either Auburn or New Mexico State will await. I expect Kansas to face Auburn and fall to the Tigers.
Kansas State is also a No. 4 seed with the Wildcats snagging it in the South Regional.
K-State finished as Big 12 co-champions with Texas Tech before falling in the semifinals to Iowa State in the conference tournament. The 25-8 Wildcats will face the 30-5 UC Irvine Anteaters.
The Anteaters have won 16 consecutive games and are the first Big West team since the 1990-91 UNLV Rebels to win 30 games, a team that went 34-1 with the only loss coming to the eventual national champion Duke in the Final Four.
The Anteaters might be one of the best 13 seeds in the tournament.
In their five losses, one team is in the tournament (Utah State) and two are in the NIT (Toledo and Butler). The Anteaters also defeated Montana and Saint Mary’s – both teams are in the tournament.
Like Kansas State, this is an experienced team with a strong backcourt.
Dean Wade’s health concerns paired with the strength of UC Irvine should worry K-State fans.
This could easily turn into an upset and I think it will. The two teams will play Friday at 1 p.m. on TBS.
Looking at the rest of the tournament, I really like potential upsets by Liberty, Saint Louis and Oregon. I want to be really high on Virginia, but last year’s upset by UMBC has me hesitant to fully jump on their bandwagon.
My Final Four is Duke, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas Tech with Duke and Tennessee meeting in the national championship game.
While Duke does have issues shooting the ball, they have Zion Williamson, who is the best player in college basketball this year. Mike Krzyzewski is still the head coach.
Duke has five titles since 1991 and I think this year will be the sixth. But this is March and we could see something crazy happen.
Even with a busted bracket, I cannot wait to enjoy the madness.
Luke Peterson is the sports editor for the Leavenworth Times. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.