By NICK NELSON
When three conferences are able to send seven of their teams to the NCAA tournament, you know that it won’t just be March Madness, but a month of sheer basketball insanity.
The Big East, Big Ten and Atlantic Coast Conference storylines were just a microcosm of college basketball’s Division-I shakedown heading through the conference tournaments and determining the seeding for the NCAA National Championship that starts today.
In addition to sending seven total teams, the Big East boasts three number one seeds, a record for any conference in tournament time, the University of Connecticut Huskies, the University of Pittsburgh Panthers and the University of Louisville Cardinals.
The University of North Carolina Tar Heels hold the final number-one seed. The Heels are just one of the seven teams being sent by the ACC to play in the “Big Dance”. Interestingly, the Louisville Cardinals were the only number one seed to win their conference tournament, a testament to the dominant strength of the Big East throughout the regular season.
In addition to the powerhouses of the Big East and Atlantic Coast Conference, smaller conferences are also sending their representation, and the mid-major teams are arguably the most compelling parts of this year’s tournament.
DC-local and 14-seeded American University will be representing the Patriot League in the tournament for the second year in a row after never tasting tournament competition before their first round exit against the University of Tennessee last year.
Binghamton University, a school in upstate New York, is playing in the dance for the first time in school history after winning the America East Conference tournament. As a 15-seed, they will face the second-seeded Duke University Blue Devils. Last year, Duke was a two-seed in 2008 and was nearly upset in the first round against the 15-seed Belmont Bears in a game that saw Duke win by a 71-70 margin and nearly broke many brackets across the country.
Analysts around the country are in agreement that the most exciting story to come out of the end of the basketball season had to be the six-overtime marathon game played between Syracuse University and the University of Connecticut in the quarterfinals of the Big East Conference tournament.
After 70 minutes of game time, the final saw the Orangemen stun the heavily favored Huskies by a score of 127-117. It was the longest game in Big East history, one overtime period short of the NCAA record, and only two overtimes away from clocking in as two regulation-length games in one.
Opinions around the Mary Washington campus and beyond are mixed as to who will end up victorious and be crowned the best college basketball team in the land. Washington Post columnist Tony Kornheiser selected the University of Pittsburgh as the national champion, while four of the five columnists on CBS Sports select North Carolina as champion. However, star point guard Ty Lawson is currently questionable for the Tar Heels.
Mary Washington junior David Spencer had his own opinions on the winner, as well a few other selections.
“Oklahoma is my pick to win,” Spencer said. “They’re in an easy [regional] bracket, and Blake Griffin gives Tyler Hansbrough a run for his money.”
Spencer also had a view on the sleeper and most over-rated team.
“Virginia Commonwealth is the sleeper this year,” said Spencer. “They’re this year’s Davidson. They play UCLA, who has to fly cross-country to play. If they beat UCLA, they have a real chance to beat Villanova and get to at least the Sweet 16.”
“But Memphis is so over-rated,” he continued. “I’ll sing it until I die. Print that. They play absolutely nobody all year and get a two seed. They’re the basketball version of Notre Dame football.”
While Notre Dame has enjoyed a 3-9 2007 season and just squeezed into a bowl-game at 7-6 last year, it should be noted tat Memphis was the tournament runner-u last year and are currently on a 25-game win streak.
Tournament action begins today at 12:25 p.m. as the second-seeded Memphis Tigers square off against the 15-seed Cal State Northridge Matadors and continues through the field of 64 until the championship game on April 6, played in Detroit at Ford Field.