Stage set for the big dance March Madness hits full swing as the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championship gets underway on Thursday

By Connor Phillips

Selection Sunday was this past Sunday, and with that, the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championships are set. Part of the excitement of March Madness are the intriguing matchups and the possibility of upsets, and this year’s version of the bracket does not disappoint.

The four No.1 seeds are the University of Louisville Cardinals, the University of Kansas Jayhawks, the Indiana University Hoosiers and the West Coast Conference’s very own Gonzaga University Bulldogs. Despite Gonzaga being ranked No.1 nationally at the end of the season, the Cardinals were handed the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament.

These top seeds will not have it easy as most of them are paired with a traditionally strong No. 2 seed with the likes of the Big Ten Conference champions Ohio State University Buckeyes, the Duke University Blue Devils, the Georgetown University Hoyas and the Atlantic Coast Conference champions University of Miami Hurricanes.

Beating the top seeds is a formidable task, but in a year without a clear frontrunner there are numerous teams that can topple these big name schools. Only a few years ago the Virginia Commonwealth University Rams made a deep run to the Final Four as a No. 11 seed after winning the play-in game. Last season, the Syracuse University Orange were a No. 1 seed, but they were almost defeated in their opening game against the No. 16 seed University of North Carolina at Asheville Bulldogs.

Another WCC team, the St. Mary’s College Gaels, will take part in a play in game for the No. 11 seed in the Midwest Region against the Middle Tennessee State University Blue Raiders. The winner will take on the sixth seeded University of Memphis Tigers in Auburn Hills, Michigan on March 21. The Gaels’ Midwest Region is certainly the toughest in the tournament this year, as it features three of the greatest active coaches in college basketball: Louisville’s Rick Pitino, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and Tom Izzo of the Michigan State University Spartans. The Midwest Region also features one of the trendier picks in this year’s tournament in the Saint Louis University Billikens. The Billikens are the No. 4 seed after winning the Atlantic 10 Conference Championship.

Another intriguing matchup will take place in the South Region game when the University of North Carolina Tar Heels will face off against the the Villanova University Wildcats. These two teams have a long history in terms of tournament success and have experienced coaches who will prepare them well.

In the past, matchups between No. 5 and No. 12 seeds have produced some of the most exciting games during this tournament. For some reason, the 5-12 matchups have always provided fans with some of the best nail biters and Cinderella stories. One of these matchups that is pegged to be close this year is the game in the Midwest Region between the No. 12 seed University of Oregon Ducks and the No. 5 seed Oklahoma State University Cowboys.

USD freshman Ryan Krouse is really looking forward to this matchup as well. “I think that Oregon got a bad seed and are much better than a 12. But I do think that Oklahoma State are a good team and this game is going to be fantastic!” said Krouse.

One of the reasons why people love March Madness is the opportunity to fill out their bracket and predict the unpredictable. But even when their brackets are inevitably busted, the stories to be told by the remaining games of the tournament keep them all watching. This year certainly has potential for the top teams to show their mettle and for the Cinderella stories to do some bracket busting of their own.