Do you feel yourself less interested in the tourney this year because of Syracuse's ban or is it just a great sports experience on its own?
Brian Tahmosh: Yes. I'm definitely less interested, but I am still pretty interested. We still have all the brackets, the gambling, the hope for simultaneous buzzer beaters. It's still a fantastic event, but it does lose a little luster when your team isn't in it.
Jared Smith: It is a different feel. Usually, my March Madness schedule is planned around Syracuse's game (when to take time off, pace myself drinking, etc.). Now, there's no pressure to make sure I am free for a certain window. But, I miss that March feeling when it comes for rooting for a team. There's nothing like it. Overall, I will not be less interested, but it's very different.
Dan Lyons: Slightly. I didn't rush to fill out a bracket this year right away (part of the reason was that I was on the road), and I haven't obsessed over possible roads to the Final Four because I don't have my team in the dance. At the end of the day though, the NCAA Tournament is still my favorite sporting event, and I will likely still watch just about every game over the next few weeks.
Kevin Wall: Right now I’m a little less interested, but once Thursday hits, I’m locked in. If you can’t enjoy the tournament, then you really don’t like college basketball.
John Cassillo: It's a great sports experience, for sure. But as a Syracuse fan, you can't help but feel something is missing. I'm usually a little less interested in the tourney once the Orange are knocked out, but knowing that from the beginning may allow me to stay engaged throughout now.
Michael Burke: This was my first year as an SU fan, so I'm just as interested in the tournament as I usually am. But, with that being said, I imagine I'd be significantly more excited if the Orange were among the field of 68. Still, the next three weeks should be fun, as they always are.
Matt Constas: I definitely feel less interested because of Syracuse's ban. It is funny because I was having a conversation with my roommate about what sport I know the most, and I came to the conclusion that over the years it has to be college basketball accept for this year. I feel like at times I was rooting for Syracuse harder than I ever had before even after the ban, but I think it took away from my overall interest in other teams. This was the first Selection Sunday I didn't tune into in years. It is a great time and I bet I'll watch a lot of games, but right now I really don't seem to have a team I want to win.
Claudia Ceva: It's not that I'm less interested, because I'm not in the slightest, but more that I don't have any real rooting interest. I will _always_ love the NCAA tournament, no matter what, because I love college basketball and I think that the tournament is one of the best postseason tourneys across all sports. It's so unpredictable, especially in the earlier rounds, and I love it!
Sean Keeley: I can absolutely feel myself not caring as much as I normally do. Maybe some of that has to do with the fact that we're usually up to our necks in writing to prep for Syracuse's tourney game and instead we've got...nothing. I think once Thursday gets here, I'll feel like I normally due, but the hype of the week just hasn't been there.
Can anyone beat Kentucky?
BT: No. Kentucky is the best team in the country by far, and they won't lose. The funny thing is, unlike many of Calipari's teams, this Kentucky team has a ton of big game experience, with the Harrisons, Cauley-Stein, Dakari Johnson and Poythress all making it to the championship game last year. They're not losing.
JS: Oh yeah. UK is good, but it's the NCAA Tournament and anything can happen. The thing about the Wildcats is they've survived close games in the SEC and if there's a game in which they are off they can be beat. I am just not betting against it.
DL: Absolutely. Kentucky is the best team, but they did have three or four really close calls against the also-rans of the SEC (read: the entire SEC). If this was the NBA playoffs, I'd probably say that Kentucky would have a good 80%+ chance of winning a bunch of seven game series, but things get weird in March Madness. I don't think any team can match Kentucky, but someone can always get ridiculously hot from three and catch UK on a night where Devin Booker is cold and Karl-Anthony Towns and Willie Cauley-Stein aren't getting whatever they want down low.
KW: I think a few teams can beat Kentucky, but it’s going to take a lot to knock them out. We all know that the 3-pt shot is the great equalizer so if a team gets hot from deep, it can put the pressure on the Wildcats. The other thing about the tourney is when a Cinderella is in the game, the neutral crowd swings towards them. Lots of people want to see Kentucky lose, so the pressure on them is huge.
JC: Yes. I think several teams this year could've beaten Kentucky, but didn't. And there are several teams in Kentucky's portion of the bracket and elsewhere that can certainly beat the Wildcats. The real question, however, is will they be able to? That's yet to be seen. I'm holding out hope that it happens, but that's obviously getting more and more difficult.
MB: Absolutely. That doesn't mean someone will beat the Wildcats, but it's possible. I don't even think it's a guarantee that they get to the Final Four. I put stock in teams getting hot at the right time, and Notre Dame might be peaking right now. The Irish won the ACC Tournament and haven't lost since falling to Syracuse on Feb. 24. Who's to say they can't beat Kentucky? And even if the Wildcats do reach the Final Four, there are a number of teams -- chief among them Arizona and Duke, in my mind -- that are at least capable of beating John Calipari's group. Was that a convincing case? Either way, I picked UK to win it all.
MC: Can it be done? Yes. Will it be done? I'm not sure. There are plenty of teams with talent and experience that can give them a run for their money but despite all the talent and height, the best aspect of Kentucky is their depth, which I feel like is almost impossible to match. They may not be on their A game, but they have the ability to play harder than their opponent the whole game because Calipari can rest his players accordingly. Playing with heart and energy can go a long way in college basketball, so I think any team can beat any other team on any given day, I just feel like the task of beating Kentucky could become even more difficult as the tourney goes along.
CC: I think there are some teams out there who can give the Wildcats a run for their money. I wouldn't count out any of the other No. 1 seeds, or even the No. 2s. Really, anything can happen in the Tournament, so it'll be interesting to see if Kentucky runs the table or bows out in the Elite 8 or Final Four.
SK: There's countless examples of teams that have no business losing a game losing a game. The one that comes to mind most was the UNLV Runnin' Rebels in 1991. That team was better than the one that won the National Title the year before and I just remember the incredulity of watching them lose, to Duke of all teams. Since then, I learned that whatever you did before today means nothing when you step on the court. So...yes. They could lose.
Which four teams would you like to see head to the Carrier Dome for the East Regional?
BT: Um ... Northern Iowa, Boise State, LSU and Belmont? Lots of teams that make me angry in that bracket. So I guess these are the least offensive.
JS: The best showdowns would be all chalk: 'Nova vs. UNI and UVA vs. Oklahoma, but I doubt that happens. I can see that Region being a mess.
DL: Villanova: I've always had a bit of a soft spot for Jay Wright, he seems like a good dude. Wyoming: I love a good underdog story, and the Cowboys are a fun bunch. Albany: I still hold some silly sports-vindictiveness against Dayton for last year and Providence for everything wrong with the old Big East. Let the Upstate New Yorkers have some fun. Virginia: I have nothing against the Hoos. Tony Bennett is an amazing coach, boring style aside, and we need to get some ACC love in here.
KW: Villanova, Northern Iowa, Providence, and Michigan State. Like the old saying goes "Brackets before conference affiliation support"
JC: Based on my own bracket? NC State, Northern Iowa, Dayton, Michigan State. Based on what I'd much prefer happened? LSU, Northern Iowa, Boise State, Virginia.
MB: I'll preface this by saying that I'm going to be covering the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight games at the Dome, so naturally, I'm rooting for the teams that I'm most interested in covering. Those teams are: Villanova: I'm higher on the Wildcats the most. The opportunity to see them in person, especially with the way they've been playing, is intriguing. Plus, as a Philadelphia native, I'm going to have a hard time not pulling for 'Nova, especially with Temple getting snubbed. Louisville: At least to me, a Louisville-Villanova matchup in the Sweet 16 would be classic. Albany: Because a 14-seed playing in the Sweet 16 just two hours from home would be the story of the tournament. Michigan State: I've never been in the same room as Tom Izzo. I'd like that to change.
MC: I'd like to see Northern Iowa pull off some magic and get there, taking on Villanova. I think it would be interesting to see those two teams go head-to-head, the return of an old Big East foe and Northern Iowa most likely going through powerhouse Louisville. On the other side, I think Virginia will earn its revenge on Michigan State, if they do end up meeting on their path to Syracuse, and I'd like to add another old Big East school in there in Providence. I like what Ed Cooley has done with the program, and I'd be honored to have them continue their new found success in the Carrier Dome.
CC: I wouldn't mind seeing Villanova, Northern Iowa, Providence, and Virginia make it there. I know a lot of people will probably not like that I put two former "Old Big East" teams in there, but whatever. 'Nova and Providence have been playing some really good basketball of late, but we shall see how it pans out.
SK: I'd really love to see the Albany Great Danes make a magical run. What a great story that would be, even more shocking than when the Cornell Big Red did a similar thing a few years back. I love anarchy in these situations so I'm looking at Wyoming and Belmont but I'm also realistic. So I'll say Villanova, Wyoming, Providence and Virginia.
Is there a particular Cinderella you're rooting for?
BT: Eastern Washington. If/when they beat Georgetown we will all be fans, so we may as well just ride that out as far as it will go.
JS: Eastern Washington, for sure! I find it hilarious that Georgetown has become a NCAA joke with bracket predictors. Nobody trusts the Hoyas at all.
DL: Eastern Washington, 1000-times Eastern Washington
KW: Northeastern- because I want to increase the number of Boston-area colleges with more NCAA Tournament victories than BC since 2008.
JC: Eastern Washington, obviously. Beyond that, I could see Stephen F. Austin, Davidson and NC State going a couple more rounds than they probably should.
MB: Other than Eastern Washington? It'd be cool to see one of the central New York teams -- either 14th-seeded Albany or 12th-seeded Buffalo -- win a game or two.
MC: I like BYU. We often see one player put a weaker team on his back and lead them far in the tournament. I think NCAA triple-double leader Kyle Collinsworth can be that guy. It also doesn't hurt he has a ton of other scorers around him to help him out. If this team can get hot offensively, I think they could beat any team in the nation.
CC: I'm definitely rooting for the NY teams, at least the ones that are left (R.I.P. Manhattan in the First Four), in Buffalo and Albany. I think Dayton can make another run, if they make it out of their First Four game tonight (Wed. 18th). Valpo seems like a fun team to watch, after seeing them win the Horizon League Tournament last week. The final one is, of course, Eastern Washington because I will inherently root for any team that faces Georgetown.
SK: You will not find a bigger Eastern Washington Eagles fan on the planet right now. Actually, I'm not even sure you'll find A Eastern Washington fan. But could you imagine if it happens again to Georgetown? Oh how fun...
Who's your Final Four and eventual National Champion?
BT: Kentucky winning it all over Gonzaga. With Villanova and Arizona taking the other two spots. Kind of boring, but you know, this is kind of a boring year. There just aren't 16 really good teams this year, so once you get past the top few seeds, there doesn't seem to be a lot of contenders.
JS: I am going all chalk for the first time ever. Crazy. In a year, I think it would be that way I think it's going to go that way.
DL: Kentucky, Arizona, Virginia, Iowa State. If I'm filling out a mon...a bracket that is totally just for fun but for which I really want to beat people, I'm probably taking Arizona just to be a bit different than the large majority that will take Kentucky. If I'm just picking the team that I believe has the best chance, however, it has to be Kentucky.
KW: Kentucky, Arizona, Michigan State and Iowa State. Iowa State over Arizona for the title. #TeamHogue
JC: If you're in a small pool, statistics say you're better off picking chalk. If you're in one or more large pools, you'll want to mix it up (especially if a lot of people you're in there with just end up going for favorites). I've got Maryland, Wisconsin, Northern Iowa and Iowa State in one of the less-conventional Final Fours in awhile. The winner there, isn't that surprising, however. I've got the Badgers going all the way.
MB: I'm going almost all chalk this year. I have Kentucky, Arizona, Villanova, and Duke in the Final Four, with Kentucky beating 'Nova in the National Championship.
MC: I have Duke, Louisville, Arizona and Wichita State. Duke I think won't be tested too much, Rick Pitino is obviously a good coach and I think his knowledge of the game will make up for any talent that his team lacks against an opponent in their bracket, Arizona because they are really good and Wichita State to go against popular opinion and because they have revenge on their minds. The winner, I think I'll take the Wildcats.
CC: Kentucky and Duke surely have what it takes to get to the Final Four. 'Nova and Wisconsin aren't locks for me, though. If Virginia plays like they did in the second half of their game against us, I can see them reaching that level. I could also see Louisville making a run. Pitino's been there, done that. I could see Arizona, Baylor or UNC coming out on top of the West region. I'll pick UNI and Notre Dame as my sleepers. You don't win your conference tournament for nothing, and March is a crazy month. As far as the champion, I'll go with Kentucky or Duke (ew).
SK: When it comes to winning brackets and making fun picks, the Kentucky Wildcats are not the choice. But here I am picking the team that seems destined to complete John Calipari's ascension to the top of college basketball. I think they'll beat Duke in a Battle of the Blue Bloods championship game. I also have the Louisville Cardinals and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in there for a three-ACC-team Final Four.
Speaking of Final Four picks, make sure to make yours in the TNIAAM Bracket Challenge!