Words like "bracketology" and "bubble" re-enter the sports vernacular in two short weeks, as the 2014 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, better known as March Madness, is just around the corner.
The excitement begins when the draw is announced on March 16 during "Selection Sunday." The first round of the tournament will commence on Tuesday, March 18 at the UD Arena in Dayton, Ohio with the last four teams in the 68-squad field to battle for the second round.
From there, the tournament goes national, touching all corners of the country from San Diego, Calif. to Buffalo, N.Y.
After the teams are pared down to 16 in the first weekend, the remaining teams will vie for a shot at the Final Four, which will be held this year on starting on Saturday, April 5 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
The national championship game will be played on Monday, April 7.
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The surefire locks for the four top overall seeds in each region are likely to include No. 1 Florida, No. 4 Syracuse, No. 3 Arizona and perhaps No. 2 Wichita State, which remains the nation’s only undefeated team at 30-0.
An excellent No. 8 RPI rank in all games helps Wichita State’s chances, as does its non-conference No. 2 RPI mark, but the NCAA Selection Committee could hold its 103rd strength of schedule and a lack of victories over ranked opponents against them.
In its best tournament run in nearly 50 years last season, Wichita State fell to eventual champion Louisville in the national semifinal by a narrow four points.
The No. 7 Cardinals and head coach Rick Pitino are once again in contention to capture the school’s fourth overall NCAA championship. Led by senior guard Russ Smith’s 17.7 points and 4.5 assists per game, Louisville will attempt to be the first back-to-back champion since Florida in 2007.
The No. 5 Kansas Jayhawks could be in line for another deep tournament run behind super freshmen Andrew Wiggins and seven-footer Joel Embiid, two of the top prospects expected to declare for the 2014 NBA Draft this summer.
The Jayhawks have outright won or shared the Big-12 regular season title for the last 10 years, and stand as the biggest threat to Wichita State’s chances for a top overall seed.
Teams on the outside looking in include the 20-10 Brigham Young Cougars, the 19-9 Missouri Tigers, the 18-8 Oregon Ducks and the 18-11 St. John’s Red Storm. A solid showing with an upset or two in upcoming conference tournaments should pad each school’s resume for the Selection Committee.