Kansas City shines in March as one of the strongest venues in the country for postseason college basketball. The NCAA Division II MIAA conference tournament, Big 12 conference tournament and NAIA national championship have the city buzzing with excitement.
Ever since I was a young kid I always wanted to be in Kansas City in March to enjoy college basketball action. The Big 12 tournament tickets are always hard to come by, but through the years I always try to make it to at least a couple of sessions of the tournament. This year is no exception.
Even with Missouri no longer a part of the conference, the tournament is totally sold out. Kansas City is definitely a baseball, football and college basketball town. Just beyond the local attraction the NCAA Tournament is on the horizon with folks all making out their brackets. Even Joe Lunardi – aka Joey Brackets – of ESPN will chime in with his two cents for the next two weeks. The usual teams should have a shot at the national championship. However, the challenge is always to choose the Cinderella team for the tournament.
On Sunday, the tournament committee will finally put Joey Brackets and all the other gurus to rest as it announces the 2014 bracket. The top four seeds are difficult to select. The conference tournaments will be a big factor in the seeding process. It may very well be too much of a factor. The long, four-month grind should really be the determining factor along with the degree of difficulty of a team’s regular season schedule.
I have totally enjoyed watching Wichita State play all year, and although their strength of schedule is not as impressive, they have still earned the right to be a No. 1 seed. Florida and Arizona along with the Shockers will make up three of the four No. 1 seeds.
The last No. 1 seed is a true crapshoot. Teams like Duke, Louisville, Virginia, Kansas, Wisconsin, Michigan, Cincinnati, Villanova and Syracuse have all played tough competition throughout the year. Michigan State, San Diego State, New Mexico, Oklahoma State, Memphis, Iowa State, North Carolina and, of course, many others have a legitimate chance to cause problems for anyone in the tournament.
The most important advantage of seeding number is location placement in the region. The local fan base becomes a huge advantage to any given team. I have seen the lesser seeds play in arenas with very few fans, which really takes away the “neutral” site. However, at least the NCAA Tournament does determine a champion on the court as opposed to by a computer or committee.
In the March Madness framework everyone has grown to love the underdogs who upset the big dogs. As you watch the tournament you can see the higher seeds in every game become tighter and tighter in games in which the lower seeds are still in the game in the second half. No doubt this year will also include several big upsets, but when all the dust settles the most talented teams in the tournament will be at the championship game.
If I had to pick two teams to bet the ranch on this year I would be inclined to take Florida and Arizona as the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds. Duke and Louisville will also be knocking at the door. Wisconsin, Michigan State and Michigan all are experienced big-game teams. I am afraid Kansas is too inconsistent and North Carolina is unable to shoot free throws. The big question marks for my personal bracket selections are New Mexico, San Diego State and Virginia. We can have fun with our selections – just wish we were making the big money like Joey Brackets! Enjoy the fun of March Madness.
• The Royals were dealt a big blow with the loss of Luke Hochevar to Tommy John surgery. The organization will now be forced to use the young arms in the organization to fill the No. 5 spot in the rotation. Wade Davis is the most likely candidate to fill the Hochevar vacancy in the bullpen. The situation will definitely shed light on the strength of their young arms.
• The high school basketball season is winding down. Hopefully a local team will bring home another state championship. TWC SportsChannel has done a great job of covering local high school basketball this year.
• The act of ex-Kansas State and present South Carolina coach Frank Martin is getting a little old. How many apologies does the coach have in him each year? If you are an AD it would be tough to have a guy like Martin around. Defending him would have to be getting old. It is unfortunate because the guy can coach.
• Mizzou coach Gary Pinkel really rebounded in 2013. He and his staff received a well-deserved new contract. Just last summer all I heard around the golf course was the Pinkel needed to go. I sure am glad that ADs do not always listen to boosters.
• My quote of the week comes from Pele, the great soccer player: “The more difficult a victory, the greater the happiness in winning.”
Tim Crone, a William Chrisman High School graduate, is a former activities director and coach for Blue Springs High School and is a host of a weekly radio show, “Off the Wall with Tim Crone,” on KCWJ (1030 AM) 5-6 p.m. every Thursday. He writes a weekly column for The Examiner. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org