March Madness 2002
A look into the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament
For college basketball fans, it's the greatest week of the year. The days of the week following what has become known as Selection Sunday follow in this manner: Office Pool Monday, Play-in Game Tuesday, Bracket collection Wednesday, Insane Thursday, Frantic Friday, and Second Round Saturday and Sunday.
Selection Sunday is the day that the NCAA Tournament Committee makes its final choices on the field of 65. Last year, following the split up of the Western Athletic Conference, the NCAA added one team to the traditional 64-team bracket. The 65th and 64th-ranked teams in the tourney face off on Tuesday night for a slot in the final cut and the inevitable thrashing at the hands of a one-seed. This year top-seed Maryland will meet Siena who beat Alcorn State.
The tournament gets rolling the day after what has to be the biggest undocumented gambling day of the year, Bracket Collection Wednesday. Bracket Collection Wednesday is the day that tens and twenties are collected by "the young guy from sales" in offices from coast to coast and then delivered in a fat envelope to "the basketball-ignorant receptionist" the day after the national title game.
Insane Thursday is the true opening day of the tournament. Hoop junkies call-in sick and start watching nearly non-stop basketball in the morning and don't stop until late on Second Round Sunday. Here's a quick look at what they'll be seeing.
Maryland (26–4) is the favorite in the East but two-seed UConn could give them trouble if they meet in the regional finals on Palm Sunday. Maryland made the first Final Four appearance in school history a year ago and Gary Williams' squad has a one-seed to give them a bit of a helping hand to make their second trip. Lonny Baxter and Juan Dixon have been a strong inside-outside punch for the Terps this year. UConn won the Big East tourney and sophomore Caron Butler has blossomed. The tall forward is tough both inside and outside and gives defenders more than they can handle. Also in the East, Bobby Knight makes his return to March Madness with surprising six-seed Texas Tech. Knight's opponent in the first round will be Southern Illinois, an at-large selection that got in due in large part to a tough non-conference schedule which included an upset win over Indiana.
Upset Special: Tulsa over Marquette.
Kansas (29–3) looks to have a relatively painless path to the Final Four. Anything short of that will be a big disappointment for the Jayhawks. Roy Williams hasn't been there since 1993 and this year his team is certainly a national title contender. First team All-American Drew Gooden, wearing #0, is one of the best players in the tournament. Oregon, probably the weakest two-seed in the bracket, could be the first big dog to get bitten. The Ducks are vulnerable playing on the road. Even if they advance to the regional finals, Kansas should dispatch them without much trouble.
Upset Special: Troy Bell and Boston College over Texas or Creighton over Florida.
Cincinnati has the one-seed but probably in the toughest region of the four. A lot of people thought Oklahoma should have been a one-seed themselves. Three-seed Arizona had a great year, with non-conference wins over Maryland, Texas, and Florida. Even the six-seed in the West, Gonzaga, wouldn't surprise many if they made it to the regional finals.
Upset Special: Defensive-minded Hawaii over Xavier.
Defending national champion Duke is obviously the one to watch. Any team with Jason Williams at the point is tough to beat. Bet on Duke making a return to the Final Four. Two-seed Alabama should test the Blue Devils but ultimately succumb. Big East surprise Pittsburgh will turn into pumpkins in the first round at the hands of Cinderella Central Connecticut State.
Upset Special: Central Conn. State over Pitt or Kent State over Oklahoma State.