In the sporting world, first week of March is likened to the deadly calm before a rainstorm. The clouds roll across the sky in ominous shades of blue and purple, but the trees are still, the streets are quiet.
And then, madness. March Madness.
The annual finale of college basketball shares more than the characteristics of a stormy weather — just like the weathermen in Colorado who habitually fail to predict the weather, sports experts across America largely fail to predict the outcome of the massive NCAA playoffs.
But isn’t unpredictability what we all love about sports? Las Vegas certainly does. Next to the Super Bowl and the World Series, March Madness reels in the most traffic for sporting bets. It helps that the Sin City can rarely be beaten in terms of environment and events surrounding the tournament.
This year’s saga begins with Selection Sunday on March 13. The real fun begins March 15 & 16 in Dayton, Ohio and ends three weeks later in Houston with the Championship game April 4.
For a detailed schedule, click here.
It’s Conference-game week, and although trying to predict the winners before Sunday is like trying to find an earring in a recently-disturbed bed of muddy water, it doesn’t stop anybody from trying.
The Kansas Jayhawks (27-4) hold the No. 1 ranking for second straight week, followed by Michigan State (26-5), Villanova (27-4) and Virginia (24-6). Unsurprisingly, these four teams are favored to go the distance in the tournament. Last year, three of the four final teams were ranked No. 1, culminating with No. 1 Wisconsin losing to No. 1 Duke.
Many predict the Spartans to take the cake this year, as they are one of just four teams to hand Kansas a loss. Their leader, senior guard Denzel Valentine, who is averaging 19.6 ppg, was recently named the Big 10 Player of the Year and the Spartan’s have been given +750 odds to win on OddsShark and a 40 percent chance for victory according to ESPN’s Basketball Power Index.
Says head coach Tom Izzo “In the 21 years I’ve been the head coach, we’ve gone to seven Final Fours and three of them I thought we had a legitimate chance to win going in,” Izzo said. “I’m putting my neck on the line, this is the fourth where we have a legitimate chance to win.”
Still, the odds might be in Kansas’ favor if the two end up in a rematch. Typically, the team that lost Round 1 develops a chip in their shoulder and comes back with a vengeance in Round 2. All five of the ‘Hawk’s top-scorers are shooting 40 percent or above from deep and Perry Ellis’ 16.5 ppg has helped lead the Jayhawks to their 81.8 game average.
But the truth is, nobody knows what will happen in the next month of college basketball. Each game is anybody’s to take — whoever is having an ‘on’ night will take the prize. That’s what makes this time of year so exciting.
All you can really do is sit back and enjoy the madness.
Check back here all month for updates.
After day one, 99.9 percent of brackets were busted, according to CBS Sports, mostly thanks to upsets from No. 12 Little Rock over No. 5 Purdue and No. 12 Yale over the No. 5 Baylor Bears.
Day two brought more upset excitement with Wichita State’s 10-point victory over the six-seeded Arizona and No. 4 Cal State falling to No. 14 Hawaii.
But the biggest upset by far came Friday afternoon when the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders pulled off a massive win over Michigan State. The Spartans were second only to Kansas as the national favorite to win the tournament – getting knocked out in the first round against a No. 15 seed? Nobody saw that one coming.
In fact, an estimated 8.1 million brackets were broken at the moment the buzzer sounded on the Blue Raider’s 91-80 victory. After that, No. 3 West Virginia’s loss to Stephen F. Austin seemed trivial, though it busted a further 1.4 million brackets.
The start of day three finds the lower seeds trying to stake their claim in the big dance, with Wichita State as the first to go home. The aptly-named Shockers suffered a a comeback-win from No. 3 Miami Hurricanes.
Yale, who made it to the tournament for the first time in decades – five decades to be exact – seems to have lost its gumption. The Duke Blue Devils have managed a near-20-point lead through the start of the second half. Yale’s short-but-exciting run looks to be coming to an end.
Still to come Saturday: Little Rock will be tested by No. 4 Iowa State, Gonzaga takes on No. 3 Utah, plus many more of your “average” match-ups.
You won’t want to miss what Sunday has in store, with SF Austin hoping to survive No. 6 Notre Dame at 12:40 and finally, the master-upsetters, Middle Tennessee, will clash with the Syracuse Orange at 4:10.
So far, the madness has yet to disappoint.