March is a big time for college basketball in Kansas City. The city has always been a hotbed for hoops in March.
Both NCAA Division I and Division II have tournaments with the NAIA following a little later in the month. It will be the focus for three weeks in March and the Power and Light District will be rocking.
The first week of March the town will play host to the Division II Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association men’s and women’s tournament at Municipal Auditorium. On the men’s side, back-to-back Division II champion Northwest Missouri State will come into the tournament as the No. 1 seed again. On the women’s side, Central Missouri State and Emporia State come into the tournament ranked as the Nos. 1 and 3 teams in the region. Both divisions should provide great entertainment for area fans.
The Big 12 does not have the quality balance in the league this year, but basketball gurus in many circles feel that Kansas and Baylor, who will likely be the overall No. 1 and 2 seeds in the tournament, just may be the best teams in the country.
Texas Tech and West Virginia will probably make the NCAA Tournament field and could be lurking in the background to be a spoiler to the rubber match of the season with Kansas and Baylor. Going into the last week of the conference season, there are four teams at the top of men’s Division I that could enter the NCAA tournament as the No. 1 seed. In no particular order, those teams should be Gonzaga, Kansas, Baylor and San Diego State. Gonzaga and San Diego State have both had an outstanding year. Gonzaga and San Diego State have lost only once.
The seeding talk will be focused on who has played the toughest regular schedule. As of now, Kansas and Baylor look the best on paper in regard to a tough schedule. However, history bears out that there will be several major upsets during the tournament, which is what makes March Madness one of the best sports events during the year.
Following the above teams in ranking are Dayton, Duke, Maryland and Florida State. These four schools will also be tough to beat during the tournament. Dayton has shown all year that they can play and beat anyone in the country. Duke is Duke. Maryland has handled a very tough schedule in the Big Ten and Florida State has shown everyone that it has become a consistent national power playing in the always tough ACC.
Penn State, Kentucky, Louisville, Auburn, Villanova, Seton Hall, Creighton, Oregon and Colorado can create chaos with upsets.
This is the first year for some of the familiar faces in the tournament to be watching from the outside. North Carolina has had a season to forget. They have lost several close games that have tended to go their way in the past.
Kentucky will make the tournament, but they have not been the dominating power team of the past. It has been nice to see Dayton, Seton Hall, Colorado, West Virginia, Marquette, Iowa, Houston and Butler in the AP Top 25 and in the heat as a team that can beat you come tournament time.
Michigan State has underachieved in the Big Ten this year, but they will probably make the tournament. The Spartans and Ohio State will be teams no one will be eager to play.
On the women’s side of Division I, Oregon, South Carolina, Maryland and Louisville look to be possible candidates for the top overall seed. Three perennial powers – Baylor, UConn and Stanford – should be found on line two come tournament time. Other sure bets to get in the tournament are UCLA, Northwestern, Iowa, Missouri State, Mississippi State, Texas A&M and Princeton.
Just like North Carolina in the men’s division, the women’s powerhouse Notre Dame looks like they will be watching the tournament on TV this year. However with a lot of unknowns, everyone still has a chance if they get into the tournament.
Unlike football, the teams actually play games to see who deserves the right to move on to win a national championship. College basketball fans will be riding a team to glory in the next eight weeks. I am sure this year’s basketball tournament will be as eventful as in the past and great fun to watch. Time to tip it off and see who ends up in the winner’s seat.
• The quote of the week comes from college and NBA Hall of Fame standout Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: “One man can be a crucial ingredient on a team, but one man cannot make a team.”
– 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.