Tuesday, January 26, 2010

This is shaping up to be a fun tournament

This March I will get to make my sixth trip to the NCAA basketball tournament when the regional is played at Reliant Stadium in Houston (and maybe a first round trip as well if things go right).

The NCAA Tournament is easily one of the best events in all of sports. I have had the privilege of going as a fan twice, a member of the media and twice working the event. I have seen the games from the nose-bleeds and five feet from the court. The best part of the tournament experience, is it doesn't matter where I have been sitting, the games are just as exciting.

The way things are going this season, the tournament is shaping up to be a very good, balanced field. There just isn't that one great team that looks like they can run away with it. Kentucky is very good, but they are young and that scares me. The rest of the contenders have all shown a tendency to take a night off. In the Dance you can't afford to let that happen.

That is why this year's field could be a really fun one to see play out. There might be 15 teams capable of winning six straight in March. It just seems this season there have been a lot of top-10 teams losing to unranked opponents. Even when a pair of top-25's hook up, the lower-ranked team has been the team pulling out the win.

There are some mid-majors that can get in the dance and make some noise this year that wouldn't be a surprise. Northern Iowa looks to be tough, as does Butler and St. Mary's. While debatable about actually being a mid-major, Gonzaga is a threat again this year.

While I expect a few mids to make some noise early, I think the surprise this year could come from the mid-ranged seeded teams. Two years ago, every No. 1 seed made it to the Final Four. I could very easily see none make it this year. And while it is unlikely, there might not be a 2-seed advance to the last weekend either.

The way things are shaping up this year, this might be the season for the teams in the 5-9 range to make some noise. That is where you will see might see Baylor, Oklahoma State, Florida State, Georgia Tech and a handful of Big East teams. All are capable of winning a few games and getting a step away from Indianapolis.

The tournament is less than two months away and there is still a lot of basketball to be played. But if the first two months are any indication, this year's bracket will be anything but chalk.

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