The anticipated March Madness is here


In the world of sports, summer belongs to the Stanley Cup Finals, fall to the World Series and winter to the Super Bowl. But the spring belongs to the 17-day long, 68-team March Madness tournament. For 77 years, only the finest of collegiate basketball teams have battled their way to the iconic Final Four. This year, powerhouses like Kansas University, Duke University and the undefeated University of Kentucky are prepared to dominate. Millions of brackets and hearts will be broken as the emotional journey is sure to captivate every player, coach and fan.

Kansas is ranked ninth in the country and has secured a sturdy record of 24-7. Junior forward Perry Ellis leads the Jayhawks in both rebounding (7 per game) and scoring (14 points per game). KU’s well-balanced, professional style of play keeps it in the race for another title.

Led by arguably the greatest coach in all of sports, Mike Krzyzewski, Duke will stop at nothing to capture its fifth National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championship. Six foot 11 inch freshman sensation, Jahlil Okafor, leads the Blue Devils averaging 18 points and nine rebounds per game. Duke sits comfortably ranked second in the nation with an overall record of 28-3.

Kentucky, the country’s superpower, is ranked first in the polls unanimously. With a record of 31-0, the Wildcats are the favored champions by the majority of the public. Kentucky has made the Final Four three of the last four years and lost to Connecticut in the 2014 finals. Twin brothers Andrew and Aaron Harrison returned to Kentucky after a successful run last year and use their crafty play making and hard-nose defense to lead their well-rounded team.

The spontaneity of upsets can strike any team at any moment. Overrated teams, also called sleeping giants, are generally hard to determine. However, many silent schools definitely have a chance to sneak past such complacent teams.

Iowa State University (22-8), ranked 13 in the polls, has tremendous size and flexibility that make it a tough team on both ends of the floor. Coach Fred Hoiberg has guided the Cyclones to the tournament for the fourth consecutive year with his balanced offensive-minded and strict defensive-minded approach to the game. ISU is more of a teamwork-oriented team that benefits from six players scoring in double figures. Among all schools, ISU ranks eighth in assists per game (16.8), ninth in points per game (79.3), and twelfth in field goal percentage (48.5 percent).

Brigham Young University (25-9) is unranked but could certainly rise to the occasion if it was to make the tournament. BYU proved to be a formidable opponent in several close losses to ranked teams this season. However, on Feb. 28, the Cougars stunned the number three Gonzaga University Bulldogs on the road for its sixth consecutive win. BYU ranks sixteenth in the country in rebounds per game (38.4), fifth in assists per game (17) and, incredibly, is second in scoring per game (83.8). Senior guard Tyler Haws is the third highest scorer in the nation, averaging 22.1 points per game. Along with Haws, BYU has three additional players averaging point totals in the teens. Experience and prolific scoring bode well for this team should it make the tournament.

Davidson College, champion of the Atlantic 10 Conference (A-10) and twenty-fourth seed in the country, has turned many heads this year. After Davidson decided to join the A-10 Conference at the start of this season, many skeptics thought it would stand little chance competing against stronger colleges. However, the Wildcats responded in vicious manner, tearing apart A-10 teams who had overlooked its potential. Davidson’s lineup is headlining two 16 point-per-game scorers, senior shooting guard Tyler Kalinoski and sophomore point guard Jack Gibbs. The Wildcats keen offensive attack averages 80.6 points per game (fourth best in the country) and 17.4 assists per game (third best in the country). Davidson’s up-tempo yet efficient pace makes it a threat to overconfident opponents.

Anticipation is in the air and the 2015 NCAA tournament will certainly be thrilling. The official announcement of the tournament bracket will be released this Sunday, March 15. This is the season of buzzer beaters and celebrations, upsets and uprisings, net cutting and trophy rising. This is spring. This is March. Pick wisely and bring on the Madness.