If you’re in a bracket that ignores that first batch of games, the tournament doesn’t really start until today.
Either way, this much is certain: The madness is here — and this March is filled with great teams, great players and some intriguing matchups.
To get you ready for the main event, here’s a rundown of what to look for today, and throughout the tourney:
JIMMER THE JAMMER
BYU’s Jimmer Fredette might just be the tourney’s most exciting player. The nation’s leading scorer had 37 points in a double-overtime win over Florida last year and had 52 against New Mexico in the Mountain West tournament. So, to put it mildly, the guy knows how to put on a show.
CAN VANDERBILT “UPSET” RICHMOND TODAY?
OK, so Vanderbilt is the No. 5 seed, and Richmond is No. 12. But many experts — and certainly many fans — would have you believe that the SEC’s Commodores are big underdogs.
Vanderbilt, after all, has been ousted from the tourney in the first round in each of the Commodores’ past two appearances, which has led fans all around the nation to pick against them in today’s game.
Plus, Richmond has knocked off higher seeds in the past, and the Spiders have one of the nation’s leading scorers in Kevin Anderson.
So, a Vanderbilt victory today might be considered a bracket buster.
OTHER UPSET POSSIBILITIES
Here’s a few potential underdogs to keep an eye on:
l No. 13 Belmont vs. No. 4 Wisconsin, Southeast Regional. The savvy Bruins enter the tournament on a 12-game winning streak.
The Badgers are great defensively, but struggled in their past two games, including that 36-33 loss to Penn State. Thirty-three points? Really?
No. 10 Georgia vs. No. 7 Washington. There was plenty of criticism about the Bulldogs getting such a high seed, but they know how to play defense. The Huskies are a great offensive team, but don’t always come through at the other end. OK, we might be stretching a little.
No. 11 Gonzaga vs. No. 6 St. John’s, Southeast Regional. So much was made of what a down year Gonzaga was having, but the Bulldogs lost just three conference games and won the West Coast Conference to reach the NCAAs for the 13th straight year. St. John’s hung tough in the Big East and has 10 seniors, but none have played in the NCAA tournament.
NOTING THE NUMBERS
Here’s a look a few figures to keep an eye on in the coming days:
1-12 — Temple coach Fran Dunphy’s record in NCAA tournament games, worst among coaches with at least eight appearances.
175-1 — Odds for Memphis to win the national championship, worst among teams not lumped into the “field” category.
4 — Number of teams with bears for mascots: Belmont, Northern Colorado, Oakland, UCLA.
5 — Number of 14-loss teams, one fewer than the previous 26 years combined.
9 — Wins in a row by Butler, which was in danger of missing the tournament a year after getting to the title game.
11 — Bids by the Big East, most in the country.
14.5 — Rebounds per game by Morehead State’s Kenneth Faried, best in the country.
15 — Consecutive NCAA tournament appearances by defending national champion Duke.
21 — Years since Arkansas-Little Rock qualified for the NCAA tournament.
24.3 — Number of 3-point attempts per game by Louisville.
30 — Point spread between Ohio State and Alabama State, widest in the tournament.
320 — More shots than any of his teammates have taken by Kemba Walker, who’s cast up 632 so far this season.
2,800 — Approximate miles Washington has to travel to Charlotte for its opening game, the longest road trip in the bracket.
Memphis vs. Arizona, West Regional, Tulsa, Okla. Tigers coach Josh Pastner looked as if he’d be the heir apparent to Lute Olson at Arizona after spending four years playing there and serving as an assistant. Instead, he was passed over and ended up at Memphis. He’s said there’s no hard feelings, but it’s an interesting mix nonetheless.
Temple vs. Penn State, West Regional, Tucson, Ariz. Two schools close in proximity who rarely play each other head across the country to meet in a defensive dogfight in the desert. Makes sense.
Michigan State vs. UCLA, Southeast Regional, Tampa, Fla. Early in the season, the Spartans were a favorite to win the national title. After struggling for good chunks of the season, Michigan State got into the NCAA tournament and could give the Bruins all kinds of problems, not to mention other teams in that bracket.
UConn vs. San Diego State, West Regional, Anaheim, Calif. OK, so maybe we’re jumping ahead a little since these teams wouldn’t meet until the regional semifinals. But Kemba vs. Kawhi (Leonard) would be fun to see.
That’s just a bit of what you might expect. With 68 teams in the field — still sounds weird, doesn’t it? — there’s so many story lines, so many possibilities to keep up with.
Now, it’s time to just sit back and enjoy the madnes