BOISE — It’s tournament time and it doesn’t get any bigger than the Big Dance.
The NCAA Tournament begins Tuesday at various sites across the nation, a winding road that leads to the Final Four in San Antonio. Unlike the past, this year’s field is packed with a lot of good teams and a sprinkle of great squads, which could make for an exciting, yet unpredictable tournament.
The top seeds include Virginia (South), Villanova (East), Xavier (West) and Kansas in the Midwest, but all four teams aren’t entirely above the fray when compared to other teams in the field. All four are capable of making a run to San Antonio, but also capable of flaming out in the early rounds.
That’s what makes March Madness so unique and special.
For Kentucky, its path toward a trip to the national semifinals for the first time in three years begins Thursday in Boise, Idaho, where the Wildcats, a No. 5 seed, open the tournament against 12-seeded Davidson. A possible matchup with Arizona will await Kentucky if it advances to the second round.
It doesn’t get any easier for Kentucky if the Wildcats move on to the second weekend. A South Region semifinal matchup in Atlanta could be against top-seeded Virginia, one of the top defensive teams in the nation.
There aren’t many Cinderella possibilities, but teams to watch, especially in the first two rounds, include Loyola of Chicago, Houston, Butler, North Carolina State, San Diego State, Georgia State and Rhode Island.
Among the players seeking one shining moment, this year include Mike Daum (South Dakota State), Joe Chealey (College of Charleston), Clayton Custer (Loyola of Chicago), Jon Elmore (Marshall) and Jonathan Stark of Murray State.
Michigan, which has been off for more than a week following the Big 10 Conference Tournament, is a team that could make a serious run and in a bracket that favors the Wolverines. The West Region also proved to be a good landing spot for North Carolina, which knows what it takes to win a national championship.
Other potential noise-makers include Texas Tech, Cincinnati, Purdue, Michigan State, Tennessee, and Duke.
The last time all four seeds made it to the Final Four came in 2008, also the last time the event was held in San Antonio. Look for Virginia (South), Michigan (West), Purdue (East) and Duke (Midwest) to be among the four teams that will be playing on the final weekend in March.
Kentucky has a chance to make it to Texas if it plays like it did in Saint Louis throughout the SEC Tournament. One step back and there are no second chances this time around.
It would be no surprise if the Wildcats make it to the Final Four for the first time in three years. That’s what kind of season its been and to think it’s going to get crazier. That’s why it doesn’t get any better than the Big Dance.
Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter @keithtaylor21.