To sports fans everywhere: Welcome.
Welcome to the madness, the Cinderella stories, half-priced hot wings deals and excessive television viewing. We’re in the midst of the greatest annual sporting event in America: the NCAA Division I tournament. So fill out your bracket and get comfortable on the couch because, for the next four days, you will probably see more of CBS’ tournament coverage than the Upper Peninsula countryside.
Starting today, the tournament kicks off with its first round of games (not taking into consideration the play-in game) and amongst today’s 16 games and the 16 more on Friday, there will be the expected blowouts when powerhouse teams like No. 1 seeded Kansas meet up with No. 16 Portland State, as well as hopeful upsets with No. 11 Kansas State and freshman phenom Michael Beasley meeting up with No. 6 USC and fellow frosh O.J. Mayo.
But don’t fret too much if your bracket’s out of whack after the first two days of the tournament; the chances of predicting each game of the tournament perfectly are 9.2 quintillion to 1 – that’s a nine and 18 zeros.
Now, on to the picks.
Probably the biggest long-shot as far as No. 1 seeds go, the Memphis Tigers are my pick to win it all. The remaining No. 1 seeds, UCLA, UNC and Kansas, are entering the tourney with at least one flaw in their game. UCLA’s star-freshman forward Kevin Love is recovering from back spasms, UNC’s Tyler Hansborough showed chinks in his All-American armor in the ACC title game and Kansas just never seems to play up to their potential. By default, the pick goes to Memphis.
The one question surrounding the boys from Graceland is whether or not they can win the big games. The Tigers breezed through a woeful Conference USA and lost the biggest game of the year to then No. 2 ranked Tennessee. But head coach John Calipari – whom I’ve only seen pictures of yelling – will have his team prepared this time around.
If the Tigers can make it out of a difficult South Region, which includes Texas, Stanford and a Pittsburgh team that’s on a roll right now, then the Tigers will be the battle-tested team that can handle the pressure of a Final Four. Imagine beating up the middle-school bully, and then taking on his two older brothers – that’s what Memphis will be up against in the South.
Memphis brings in junior guard Chris Douglas-Roberts, the C-USA Player of the Year winner, and Freshman of the Year winner Derrick Rose is the point guard. It’s not difficult to stop a team with one great player, but two future NBAers? It’s “Heartbreak Hotel” for the competition.
Davidson is probably the most expected team to turn out a Cinderella performance in this year’s tournament, and with the players they have, that’s no surprise. Sophomore guard Stephen Curry, son of former NBA three-point specialist Dell Curry, is the nation’s fifth leading scorer and ranks third in the nation with more than four three-pointers per game. Adding to Curry’s scoring is his backcourt mate, senior Jason Richards, who just happens to lead the nation in assists per game.
Think they haven’t played anybody? Think again. The Wildcats played UCLA, Duke and UNC all this year, and played them close.
Most Outstanding Player: Chris Douglas-Roberts
For Douglas-Roberts, two last names simply means he’s twice the player down the stretch. He’s played great in the few big games Memphis had throughout the season including a 14-point effort in the loss to Tennessee.
Douglas-Roberts is the backbone of the team, aided by his point guard, Rose. If Douglas-Roberts picks up the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament, then Rose will have the assist.