Tim Crone: We could use a little March Madness right now

The Examiner
Tim Crone

It is time to get those brackets ready for March Madness. Just a few weeks ago I discussed the teams with the best chance to be at the dance for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

The field will be announced this weekend. We all missed the tradition last year, so it will be especially fun to get back to the business of picking through the bracket for the Final Four determination. It will be a different tournament with all games to be played in Indianapolis.

The final season rankings will play a bigger role this year in who gets into the tournament. The conferences are still playing their tournaments. Some teams can play their way into the bracket if they are able to win a conference tournament crown.

Some things have changed since a few weeks ago. Obvious blue blood powerhouses Kentucky and Duke will probably not make the field. These two teams are not deserving.

Missouri and Kansas should receive an invite. They have been up and down all year but do have big wins over highly ranked teams. Missouri has big wins over Illinois and Alabama while Kansas has beaten Baylor, Creighton, Texas Tech and West Virginia. Kansas – if it is not ruled out because of a positive COVID-19 tes – will probably be a No. 3-4 seed with Missouri coming in around a No. 6-8 seed.

It is interesting to note that for the first time a single conference – the Big 10 – could have four teams in the top eight seeds. Early projections have Michigan and Illinois as No. 1 seeds and Iowa and Ohio State as No. 2s.

The Big 12 should have seven teams in the big dance. Going by national rankings, Baylor (third), West Virginia (sixth), Kansas (13th), Texas (15th) could be hot at the right time and be factors in the tournament.

The SEC will be represented by Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, Florida, and Mizzou. The ACC will not be the normal power conference this year as in years past. Florida State is 11th in the country followed by Virginia at No. 21 and Virginia Tech at No. 22. North Carolina will get a bid after pummeling Duke twice and experiencing a big win over a particularly good Florida State team.

Other shoo-ins are Houston (ninth), Creighton (14th), San Diego State (19th) and Loyola-Chicago (20th). Three other Big 10 teams Purdue, Maryland and Wisconsin will get bids. The Pac-12 once again brings up the rear with Colorado ranked 24th and likely bids for Oregon and USC. No. 10 Villanova is a shoo-in and will be one of the top teams most people will not want to play in the tournament.

The rest of the field will be filled with conference tournament champions. If this year is like previous years in the history of the tournament, a team that has not participated in March Madness for decades will rise to the surface.

Fans love to fill out the brackets. Perhaps we can leave pandemics and politics in the rear-view mirror and have fun watching college players try to reach their dreams over the next four weeks. I have my favorite teams and picks.

I hope Missouri and Kansas play well in the tournament and both teams reach the Sweet 16. It would be a great season for two teams who have been up and down like a roller coaster all year.

My picks right now for the Final Four are Gonzaga, Michigan, Villanova, and Illinois. Gonzaga and Michigan would be my choice in the championship game. At the risk of upsetting my best friend in high school, I have Michigan as the winner of the national championship.

Whoever said that sports do not make a difference in our lives was totally wrong. We can all use some fun right now.

• The quote this week comes from three-time NCAA and six-time NBA champion 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 t.crone@comcast.net.