A few things to know about the 2014 March Madness

in Uncategorized by

NCAA Basketball Teams are seeded, and America is in full grasp of bracketology — March Madness has begun (with a billion dollars up for grabs).

With the hectic activity of the first few days of the annual tradition, it is easy to understand how people can be confused, writes sportswriter Dave Skretta of the Associated Press — so here are some things to know about the upcoming NCAA tournament:

The “First Four” games that garner the most attention are Albany and Mount St. Mary’s, who will be playing for the chance to face No. 1 seed Florida, and Cal Poly-Texas Southern, where the winner will face unbeaten Wichita State.

“Selection Sunday” is notable not only for who was eventually chosen, but also who was left out: Green Bay, Georgetown and Florida State.

The Midwest is the section to follow — even by other coaches — as the most “brutal” way to the Arlington, Texas Final Four. Along with the Wichita State Shockers, two of the hottest teams around right now are Louisville and Michigan —a rematch of last year’s national championship game — as well as returning powerhouses Duke and Kentucky.

Confounding bracketeers looking for the Billion Dollar Quicken Loans payday are No. 12 seeds. One inevitably knocks off a No.5, just like Oregon, Mississippi and California did last year, Skretta notes.

The 12-5 games this year are Stephen F. Austin, which hasn’t lost a game since November, when they face VCU. North Dakota State is up against Oklahoma, and the winner of North Carolina State-Xavier will move into a match with No. 5 seed Saint Louis. Harvard, the Ivy League champion, has an eight straight winning streak as it faces Cincinnati.

The NCAA tries to control the amount of teams who faced each other earlier in the season, keeping them from meeting too early in the tournament. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some compelling matchups. One option is a Kansas-New Mexico game, a team it beat as recently as December, which is if both teams win their opener in the South Region. Saint Joseph’s could be in a position to take revenge on the 30-point flogging by No. 2 seed Villanova in the third round; fifth-seeded Saint Louis could get another shot at Wichita State in the Sweet 16.

It was no surprise that Florida was the early favorite in the national championship by Las Vegas casinos, which offer the Gators at 4-1. Michigan State, Arizona and Kansas came up next favorites, followed by Wichita State, Virginia, Duke, Syracuse and Louisville.

Some games will feel like a typical road game as Florida travels to Orlando to play the Albany-Mount St. Mary’s winner; UCLA moves down to San Diego to take on Stephen F. Austin in. Syracuse heads up the way to Buffalo to confront Western Michigan. Baylor meets Nebraska in San Antonio, Wisconsin goes to Milwaukee to play American, and Duke opens against Mercer close by in Raleigh, N.C.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.