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(Be sure to follow Aaron on Twitter @Aaron_Torres)
Need a reason to get excited for the NCAA Tournament? How about 68?
It’s one of my favorite annual columns… 68 Reasons to Be Excited About The Big Dance!
1. The Florida Gators: Who enter the tournament undefeated, the favorites in Vegas, as well as pretty much the universal favorites among casual fans to take home the 2014 title.
I’m not saying it’s right. I’m not saying it’s wrong. What I am saying is that if you disagree, Billy Donovan will send Patric Young to your house to personally change your mind.
(Ahh, the first truly awful joke is already out of the way. I’m already in mid-tournament form!)
2. Speaking of Young: I love everything about the guy. I love his beard that looks like it belongs on the set of ‘The A-Team.’ I love his biceps, which are large enough to each have their own zip code. And I love that hideous left-handed jump hook that somehow goes in way more than it every should.
Basically, I love everything there is to love about Patric Young.
3. Staying in the South: How about No. 2 seed Kansas? I mean seriously, has anyone gone from ‘Everyone’s NCAA Tournament favorite’ to ‘completely off the radar’ in a span of about 10 days, quite like the Jayhawks have?
I know they could potentially play Florida, but why isn’t this team getting more love?
Speaking of which…
4. If Kansas were to somehow knock Florida out in the Elite Eight: Well, the Gators would have to be considered ‘The Buffalo Bills of College Basketball’ right? Four straight tournament losses, all in the Elite Eight? That really would be a tough pill to swallow. You know, at least until spring football starts in a few weeks anyway.
5. One more note on Kansas: As this NCAA Tournament is very likely the last time we’ll ever see Andrew Wiggins in a college uniform.
Admittedly, it’s pretty darn sad. But hey, at least we’ll always have this dunk.
Moving on to something totally random, how about…
6. The Patriot League Champions: The American Eagles, who I know nothing about…except for the fact that they definitively have no affiliation with the clothing store.
Believe me, I looked it up.
7. Duke’s Jabari Parker: Wait, am I allowed to admit that I genuinely enjoy watching a Duke guy play hoops? Or will I immediately be struck by lightning if I say it out loud?
Given that I already survived an earthquake today, so maybe I should keep this one to myself.
8. The Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge: Which makes this list, not so much for the actual billion dollars at stake (which no one will ever win), but because when else am I going to have a chance to name-drop Warren Buffet in one of my sports columns?
9. Speaking of Name Drops: How about Mercer, who is not only in the tournament for the first time since 1985, but also has a distinguished alumni list that includes…wait for it… Robert E. Lee!!!
You really can’t make this stuff up.
10. The Virginia Cavaliers: Who, admit it, you knew nothing about up until two days ago. Nor did I.
On a side note, let me pose a quick question to the room: Are you allowed to pick a team to go the Final Four if you can’t name a single player on the team?
What’s that? No, no. I’m asking for a friend.
11. The SMU Mustangs: Who wait a second… SMU isn’t in the tournament at all.
To which I say, ‘huh?’ How did this happen? And who thought NC State and BYU were more deserving of bids than SMU was?
Besides the fact that the Mustangs were grossly overlooked, wouldn’t it have been cool to see Brown return to the tournament the same year that…
Not to mention it also would’ve been cool to see Brown return to the tournament this year, since…
12. Danny Manning made his tournament debut as a coach: Anyone else see the symmetry there? It’s so beautiful, it damn near brought tears to my eyes.
But now unfortunately it’s all gone. Thanks for nothing, tournament committee.
13. Of course with SMU out: It means that the previously mentioned NC State Wolfpack are indeed in.
Which means that we get not only get to see Mark Gottfried’s glorious hair one more time, but in NC State’s defense, they also gave us a helluva reaction video on Selection Sunday.
Moving in a completely different direction, how about…
14. Louisville’s Montrezl Harrell: Who might not be the single best power forward in college hoops, but is the single most beastly. As I joked the other day, out of the 10 most ferocious dunks I’ve seen this season, Harrell has 11 of them.
Dude is a straight hoss. Speaking of Harrell, how about his team…
15. The Louisville Cardinals: Who went from ‘totally off-the-radar’ to ‘totally scaring the crap out of everyone’ in a matter of a few weeks. Serious question: Has there ever been a No. 4 seed who is so universally expected to make the Final Four as these guys are?
Wait, don’t answer that, since…
16. Michigan State: Is also a No. 4 seed…but listed by Vegas the second most likely team to win the National Championship. Basically, you want no part of these guys at this point.
I wish I could say the same about…
18. Wisconsin: Look, I know you like the Badgers as a dark-horse to make the Final Four, and I’m sure there’s solid and sound logic on that.
But I’ve been down this slippery slope before with Bo Ryan, and it never ends well. Actually, it usually ends me trying to throw my TV out the window. So excuse me if I decide to stay away.
19. The New Mexico Lobos: If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it 100 times: Never trust a team coached by a guy named ‘Noodles.’
It’s the motto I’ve tried to live my life by, and one that ain’t changing this March.
20. Florida coach Billy Donovan: Who I’m rooting for, if only because I know that a deep Florida run will inevitably lead to him getting linked to the Knicks job. And really, aren’t wild, unsubstantiated Knicks rumors, just the best kind of rumors there are?
21. Same with John Calipari: Who I’m sorry Knicks fans, ain’t leaving Kentucky to take over your sorry organization.
Of course the speculation sure is fun…and sure is likely to get Coach Cal a raise. Speaking of which, how do I float my name out for the Knicks opening?
Speaking of Kentucky, don’t sleep on…
22. Willie Cauley-Stein: Who not only wins the award for ‘Best Neck Tattoo in the NCAA Tournament’ but also could be the single biggest X-factor in this tournament.
I mean seriously, you see how hard that guy played this past weekend in Atlanta? And you see how tough Kentucky was to beat because of it?
23. Wichita State’s Draw: Which includes potential showdowns with the preseason No. 1 Kentucky and the defending champion Louisville…just to get to the Elite Eight!
Man, someone on the selection committee DEFINITELY didn’t want Wichita making another Final Four. Not so much for…
24. Arizona: Look, I’ve got nothing but respect for what Sean Miller has done in the desert. But when the toughest game his club might play on their way to the Final Four is in the Round of 32 against Oklahoma State, well, there is definitely an angel on his shoulders. Or an Arizona mole on the NCAA Tournament committee.
25. The Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks: Who I know nothing about, other than the fact that… their nickname is the Lumberjacks!!!! And they haven’t lost since November!!!
How can you not love this team!!!!!
26. Michigan’s Nik Stauskus: Yeah, I don’t know why I like him so much, but I just do. And since this is my list…Stauskus makes it!
By the way you see that sick reverse he put on Ohio State the other day?
Staying in the Big 10, how about…
27. The Indiana Hoo–: Woops, sorry, forgot they weren’t in the tournament this year. Or in the CBI. Man, this is awkward…
28. The Colorado Buffaloes: Because if I don’t talk about them, who will?
29. Cincinnati’s Justin Jackson: Who continues one of my favorite trends in college hoops: The random dude who wears long sleeves during games for no particular reason. It makes no sense. Yet I just can’t get enough of it!
30. Sweet 16 and Elite Eight Games at Madison Square Garden: Because…wait…why aren’t there tournament games at the Garden every year?
The Official End of the Doug McDermott Era at Creighton: Which, I can’t lie, has me pretty emoti—
…give me a second…
…man, are anyone else’s allergies acting up in here?
31. Same with Shabazz Napier: Who I’d argue has been as important to his program these last two years as any player, including McDermott. As a UConn alum, all I can say is: Thanks for the memories, Shabazz.
32. Opening Weekend Games in Orlando: Anyone else find it ironic that some team is about to lose by 40 to Florida in a place known as ‘The Happiest Place on Earth?’ Or is that just me.
33. Tennessee’s Jarnell Stokes: One of my favorite random players in this year’s NCAA Tournament, who also doubles as ‘Dude I’d want to have my back if a bar fight broke out.’
I mean seriously, have you seen how big that guy is? His shoulders have their own time zone.
34. My 2014 College Basketball Man-Crush, Nick Johnson: I know I’m late to the Nick Johnson party, but what do I need to do to get in? Pay a cover charge? Get a wristband? Whatever it takes, I want a piece of the action. I can’t get enough of this guy.
35. The Coastal Carolina Chanticleers: Who…
Wait, what’s a Chanticleers?
36. Wichita State guard Fred VanVleet: If you haven’t read this article on VanVleet, just go ahead and take the 10 minutes to do it now. Seriously, go ahead. I don’t mind waiting.
37. Iowa coach Fran McCaffrey: Who…
…Ahhh, coach I’m sorry!!!…
…I take back everything I ever said about you!!…
38. Syracuse: Whose fall from ‘tourney favorites’ to ‘completely out of the picture’ was so quick, they could likely make a Fast and the Furious sequel of it.
What, too soon?
39. Mount St. Mary’s coach Jamion Christian: Who enters the tournament as the youngest coach in the Big Dance, at the ripe old age of 32…
Meaning, yes, he was born in 1982.
Meaning…. man, I gotta get s*** together!
40. Providence’s Bryce Cotton: Who averaged a cool 39.9 minutes per game this season.
And as Forrest Gump would say, ‘That’s all I really have to say about that.’
41. Gonzaga's Kevin Pangos: Who makes this list, if only because I really, genuinely enjoy watching the kid play.
42. UCLA’s Kyle Anderson: It almost two full years, but I finally figured out how to describe his game. What do you think about ‘Unexplainably effective?’
I love it! And if you don’t know what I’m talking about, you simply haven’t seen this kid play enough.
Speaking of UCLA, how about…
43. First-year head coach Steve Alford: Anyone else think that there’s something poetic about there being a major earthquake in LA Monday morning, just a few days before his tournament debut at the school? Or am I thinking way too hard here?
44. George Washington coach Mike Lonergen: Who I know nothing about, other than he refuses to allow his players to use cell phones the night before games.
I’m not totally sure what that means, but dammit if it isn’t interesting.
45. Nebraska: Who I’m rooting for, if only because, well, how awesome is it to have a coach in the field who tweets during halftime of games? (Hint: The answer is ‘indescribably awesome’ that’s what).
On a different note, I really hope that more coaches’ take Tim Miles’ liberal approach to Twitter, and that he starts a trend. I also hope that trend ends with Coach K frantically looking at his phone, and asking one of his assistants, ‘Quick, I need help! What hash tag do I use!!!’
46. The Pitt Panthers: So, do you want to make the joke about their inevitably crushing season-ending loss, or should I?
Jamie Dixon really is the gift that keeps on giving, isn’t he?
47. The Harrison Twins: Look, I’ve heard all the same stories about these guys as you have. Then I read this article, and realized that you know what? These guys are 19-years-old just like we all were at one point. And maybe we need to lay off them a little.
48. Texas-Arizona State: Which wins this year’s award for ‘The First Round Match-Up That No One Except Alums of These Schools Are Actually Excited about.
Speaking of alumni, how about…
49. A Potential Sweet 16 Match-Up Between Iowa State and UConn: Which should also be known as ‘The Battle Between Two Schools Whose Head Coaches Are Universally Believed to Be Overqualified for Their Positions, and Will Likely Wind Up in the NBA At Some Point.’
A bit long for an official title of a game, but you get the point.
50. Speaking of Fred Hoiberg: Isn’t it about time that we stop calling him the mayor? I mean at after everything he’s done, isn’t the dude due for an upgrade in the nickname department? Can we call him the Senator? The Congressman? The First Selectman? The Ambassador?
Anyone? Who’s with me on this one?
51. San Diego State fans: Who definitely looked at their draw, saw their team was headed to Spokane in the opening rounds and thought to themselves, ‘You know what, maybe I’ll watch this one from home.’
52. Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky: Wait, you didn’t think I was really going to leave a guy with the nickname ‘Frank the Tank’ off this list, did you?
53. The St. Louis Billikens: Who spent pretty much the entire season in the Top 25…yet scare absolutely no one entering the tournament.
54. Villanova: Who may be the least-intimidating No. 2 seed of all-time. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if the UConn women made a deeper run in the tournament than these guys did.
(Man, these jokes are starting to get bad. I apologize. I am on a severe shortage of sleep)
55. Russ Smith: Whose ‘Russ-diculousness’ is now based on beautiful, no-look passes and 28-foot three’s, rather than just out of control drives into three defenders like it was a few years ago. Frankly it’s hard to think of a single player who has improved more over the last few seasons than this guy.
56. The Least Interesting North Carolina Team of My Lifetime: I mean seriously, besides P.J. Hariston’s rap sheep, and the slew of teams they’ve beaten this year (which is admittedly impressive), what do any of us know about this year’s Tar Heels?
57. No LSU: Which means no random Shaq spottings on the sidelines. And really, aren’t we all losers when the Great Aristotle isn’t in the building?
58. The NCAA Tournament marks the end of the Aaron Craft Era at Ohio State: Which comes to a close after four years, 100 or so wins, and roughly 62,000 floor burns.
Admit it, you’re going to miss the little rugrat when he’s gone, aren’t you?
(Shh, don’t answer that!)
59. St. Louis’ Jordair Jett: Who…
…(//Can’t think straight//)…
60. Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger: Who, I’m pretty sure could take over the program at Tennessee Mortuary College and lead them to the NCAA Tournament within two years.
I don’t know what the hell this guy’s secret is, but man is he good.
61. The UMass Minutemen: I’m not saying they weren’t deserving of a No. 6 seed, oh wait, that’s exactly what I’m saying. Does someone in Amherst have incriminating pictures that the rest of us don’t know about?
62. A second round match-up between Ohio State and Dayton: Which once again proves that someone of the tournament committee has a sense of humor. Or wants to see Ohio State crash and burn.
One or the other, for sure.
63. The SMU Mustangs: I know I already mentioned them, but dammit if I don’t feel bad for them. Eye test, ear test, smell test, whatever. You just can’t tell me that a team which beat UConn twice, Cincinnati and Memphis isn’t one of the 68 best teams in college basketball.
Speaking of Memphis…
64. I may be the last man in America who believes in the Tigers: Well I did anyway, right up until I saw they had a date with Virginia in a potential Round of 32 game.
Man, someone on that Selection Committee really did have it out for the American, didn’t they?
65. New Mexico State: Who likely won’t beat San Diego State in their opening round game, but man… look at their roster. These guys are the definition of ‘Island of Misfit Toys.’
66. A Champion to Be Crowned at Jerry World: Because seriously, what better way to end the spectacle that is the NCAA Tournament, than at a place that is, by definition a spectacle?
67. So Who Are My Final Four Picks?: Pretty boring actually, as I have Florida, Arizona, Louisville and Michigan State.
I also have…
68. The Florida Gators: As my 2014 NCAA Tournament champion…
Enjoy the tournament everyone!
Like the article? Be sure to follow Aaron on Twitter @Aaron_Torres.