It looks like area men’s basketball Division I programs all have a chance to get to the big dance.

Kansas State is solid and should be a tough out in any Big 12 Conference game. Missouri got a big win over rival Illinois last weekend. It will be interesting to see how the Tigers do in SEC Conference play. Kansas is always the team to beat in the Big 12, but their loss to Arizona State shows the Jayhawks still have a long way to go to reach another Final Four appearance. They have had injuries but have not yet really played a complete game against anyone. Fans should have some exciting basketball to look forward to in January.

Today will be the beginning of the NCAA Division I College Football Playoff. As in previous years, a lot of hype surrounds who will be among the top four. Critics will be there as long as only four teams are placed in the hunt for the national championship. Old school supporters would like to see the playoff field expanded to eight teams which allows the championship to be determined on the field of play instead of by a committee of shirt and tie members who rely on computer stats.

For the time being, it is what it is, and Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame and Oklahoma will fight it out for the national title. Alabama is everyone’s favorite to win another championship.

The Crimson Tide is the total package. For the first time they have a starting quarterback who is the straw that stirs the drink. Tua Tagovailoa has had a great year and was a Heisman runner-up. He came in during the second half of last year’s championship game against Georgia and put on a show. The real question is if Tua can play at full speed with a leg issue present for the last half of the season. If he is unable to go full speed, then last year’s starter Jalen Hurts will have to come in and play a big role and equal his performance in this year’s SEC championship game. No other team in the country has the depth of Alabama’s roster, but to have two experienced quarterbacks can be a big difference this year in the playoffs.

Alabama has four- and five-star athletes at every position who will no doubt have a chance to play in the NFL one day. There have been times, though, particularly at the end of the year, when the Tide did look human.

Clemson is coached by Dabo Swinney, one of the greatest motivators in sports today. Swinney played at Alabama and has built the Clemson team in a mirror image of his alma mater. The front seven defenders for the Tigers are as good if not the best front seven in the country. They have been able to fly under the radar with the media and pundits this season. Clemson is good in all three phases of the game and has the experience to win the big game in light of their national championship win over Alabama in 2017. They can play.

Notre Dame comes into the playoffs undefeated but lacks credibility because of a perceived weak schedule. They did beat everyone on their schedule and therefore deserve a chance at the title. Brian Kelly has done a good job with the Notre Dame program and played the Crimson Tide in the national championship game in 2013.

The last team in the playoff picture is the high-flying offense of head coach Lincoln Riley and the Oklahoma Sooners. It is worth the price of admission to watch the Sooners spread run and gun look. However, they are severely lacking in defense. Like many football teams of this era, their whole game play is to score more points than the opponent. If that means 60, then so be it. The question will be, can a team win a national championship by dominating only one phase of the game while being terrible at another?

Going into today’s playoff games most people would probably take Alabama over Oklahoma and Clemson over Notre Dame. However, the upset could occur in the Alabama and Oklahoma game because the Sooners can score a lot of points against anyone in the country.

Clemson is good in a more traditional way by being solid in all three phases of the game. Notre Dame will be a tough out and may be a surprise. I am still taking Alabama and Clemson in the championship with Dabo Swinney and Clemson upsetting No. 1 Alabama for another national championship. Happy New Year. May 2019 create a positive memory in your life.

• Chris Klieman, the new head coach for Kansas State, is a great hire and should do a great job for the Wildcats. His record speaks for itself. He will be a positive role model for young players on the field and will mentor them in other aspects of their lives. He is a player’s coach!

• It is time for Chiefs fans to quit talking about past playoff heartbreaks and believe in the future. I am sick and tired of listening to whining about past playoff losses. You have to believe.

• My quote of the week comes from the third President of the United States Thomas Jefferson, “Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.”

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) 6 p.m. every Monday. He writes a weekly column for The Examiner. Reach him at t.crone@comcast.net.