As the Madness begins, Rick Bozich takes an A-to-Z look at the hits and misses in the 2013 NCAA Tournament field.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The Madness begins Tuesday. All five members of the WDRB sports team have posted their brackets at WDRB.com. (Click on the links at the end of this story.)
Before you fill out yours, I'd advise taking an A-to-Z look at the 2013 NCAA Tournament field.
A -- A-List Coaches. Jim Calhoun has retired. So has Gary Williams. John Calipari is not participating this season.
That leaves nine guys who have shown they can master this tournament: Mike Krzyzewski, Duke (four times); Roy Williams, North Carolina (twice); Billy Donovan, Florida (twice); Tom Izzo, Michigan State; Bill Self, Kansas; Rick Pitino, Louisville; Steve Fisher, San Diego State; Tubby Smith Minnesota; and Jim Boeheim, Syracuse.
If you believe NCAA success matters, those are your guys.
B -- Best Coach Never To Win the Title: The list of nominees is long – Mark Few of Gonzaga, Thad Matta of Ohio State and Lon Kruger, Oklahoma. But the winner is Mike Montgomery of California. He's 0-for-15 -- and he's a superb coach.
C -- Crews, Jim, coach of Saint Louis. In September 2011, Crews coached some hacks to the Media Challenge championship at Indiana University. He seemed retired. Then Rick Majerus summoned him to Saint Louis. Majerus passed away last fall and now Crews has a very dangerous club. If Crews makes the Final Four, it's the story of the year in college hoops.
D -- Daunting Road, which is what Louisville faces to win a national title. The Cards should win their opener by 30. Or more. But they could face a veteran Colorado State team and then Saint Louis.
If they get to the Midwest Regional final in Indianapolis, either Duke or Michigan State should be waiting. Those two were considered national championship contenders about 20 minutes ago. Basketball pundits don't agree on much, but the chatter on Monday was that Louisville got a nice route through Lexington and Indianapolis, but a daunting draw.
E -- Eustachy, Larry. Remember the name? He was mentioned as a possible coach at U of L if Rick Pitino didn't take the job in 2001. Eustachy earned national Coach of the Year recognition at Iowa State and then crashed with personal problems.
He's back – with a veteran Rams team that rebounds like their meal money depends on it. Cardinals beware.
F –- Florida, a talented team that can be terrific or a tease. Which Gators team is going to show up? The one that beat Wisconsin and Marquette? Or the one that couldn't beat Kentucky or Ole Miss?
G -– Gonzaga. Nobody fussed about the Zags earning the top seed in the West, but are they getting a pass? Gonzaga has the lowest strength of schedule of any Number One seed in 20 years, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
H -- Hall of Fame – The three Hall of Fame coaches in the field – Krzyzewski, Williams and Boeheim – figure to be filling out their foursome when Rick Pitino of Louisville gets the call from Springfield on Championship Monday, April 8.
I -- Indiana, the state. Despite a down season by Purdue, the Hoosier state has four NCAA teams (Indiana, Notre Dame, Butler, Valparaiso). Only Pennsylvania, California and North Carolina have five.
J – Jostling for recognition. The spotlight – and the pressure – will be on the Big East (8 teams) and Big Ten (7) to deliver. Four Big East teams (Louisville, Georgetown, Marquette and Syracuse) and four from the Big Ten (Indiana, Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan) are seeded to make the Sweet Sixteen. Skeptics are waiting to pounce if either league flames out.
K -- Kentucky. According to Elias Sports, the Wildcats are the first team in 26 years to start the season in the top three of the AP poll and then miss the tournament. That team? U of L in 1987
L -- Losing records: The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee didn't give Louisville many gifts, but the Cards' NCAA opener should end with an emptied bench.
U of L will open against Liberty or North Carolina A&T. Each had a losing regular-season record. A&T is ranked 226th in Ken Pomeroy's latest numbers, while Liberty is 251. Louisville played three teams ranked 200-or-worse this season and won those games by an average of nearly 40 points.
M -- Muscala, Mike. March makes stars of players TV rarely finds during the regular season. The bright lights will find Muscala, a dynamic 6-foot-11 frontcourt star who gives Bucknell 19 points and 11 boards per night.
N -- Never happened: A 16-seed beating a one-seed. For months Pitino has been saying this is the year. If so, maybe Western Kentucky can deliver against Kansas in the South Regional.
The Jayhawks have a history of early flops (Bucknell, 2005; Bradley, 2006; Northern Iowa 2010) and certainly looked vulnerable losing to TCU and Baylor this season. The Hilltoppers are finally healthy -- and surging.
O -- O-ladipo, Victor or O-lynyk, Kelly. Oladipo flies high for Indiana. Olynyk stands tall for Gonzaga. Both are solid contenders for the John Wooden national player of the year award.
P -- Porter, Otto. Georgetown has not won a national title since Patrick Ewing left town. If the Hoyas plan to win this year, Porter must show why he was voted the best player in the Big East. He's capable of delivering a Danny Manning. Ask Syracuse.
Q -- LaQuinton Ross – There's a reason Ohio State has become a trendy Final Four pick. Thad Matta has put more trust in his sophomores, especially Ross, a slashing 6-7 forward.
R –- Russdiculous. If you like Louisville to win it all, you believe Good Russ (Smith) will control Bad Russ for the next six games. If you don't like the Cards, you've seen enough of Bad Russ to scare you.
S -- Southeastern Conference – The Tournament Selection Committee said on Sunday what I've been saying since November: SEC basketball stinks.
When LaSalle and Middle Tennessee push your teams out of the way for the final at-large bids, you've got a big, big problem.
T – Trifecta. Pitino says shooting the three and defending the three are key factors to success.
Here are the five best teams at making the three: 1. Creighton; 2. Indiana; 3. Duke; 4. Harvard; 5. South Dakota State.
The five worst: 1. Marquette; 2. North Carolina A&T; 3. California; 4. Northwestern State; 5. Oklahoma State.
Here are the five best at defending it: 1. Wisconsin; 2. Duke; 3. Middle Tennessee; 4. Southern; 5. Syracuse.
And the five worst: 1. Long Island; 2. Iona; 3. St. Mary's; 4 Villanova; 5. Arizona.
U -- Upset Specials: I'll give you two – Tubby Smith and Minnesota over an injured UCLA team and Oregon, expertly coached by Dana Altman, over Travis Ford and Oklahoma State.
V -- Virginia Commonwealth: The Rams, a five-seed, will press and scramble and roar through the South Regional into the Final Four.
W -- Wolters, Nate: Watching Wolters of South Dakota State against Michigan guard Trey Burke will be a Thursday highlight. It's the best one-on-one matchup of the opening weekend.
X -- X-factor, guys good enough to deliver shock the world moments -- Greg McDermott of Creighton, Marshall Henderson of Mississippi, Khalif Wyatt of Temple and Allen Crabbe of California.
Y -- Young guns. Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart; UNLV forward Anthony Bennett; UCLA win Shabazz Muhammad; Michigan State wing Gary Harris and Ben McLemore of Kansas are your Freshmen to Fear.
Z -- Zeller, Cody. If Indiana is going to return to the Final Four for the first time since 2002, the Hoosiers can't forget that Zeller, their 7-foot center, must touch the ball on every possession. Sometimes they do.