Tahlequah Daily Press

Sports

March 18, 2014

NCAA tournament promises plenty of excitement

Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart a player to watch in an NCAA tournament with plenty of storylines

College basketball fans, start your brackets.

March Madness kicks into high gear this week with the start of the NCAA tournament, the time hoop heads circle the calendar like it's Christmas.

This year's run through the field of 68 should be a blast — an undefeated team in the bracket, a wide-open field and a heavy dose of great players.

So stock up the fridge, work on that fake cough to call in sick and dig the remote from under the couch cushions. It's time to roll.

Top teams

• Florida. No. 1 overall seed should get some props, especially one that plays defense as the Gators do.

• Wichita State. Final Four last season, unbeaten so far this one. All you need to know.

• Arizona. The loss of Brandon Ashley hurt and so did a loss to UCLA in the Pac-12 championship game. Not enough to keep the Wildcats from earning a No. 1 seed.

• Virginia. No. 1 in the East Region after sweeping the ACC regular-season and tournament titles.

• Louisville. Defending champs are somehow a No. 4. A little secret: They're better than that.

• Michigan State. The Spartans aren't highly ranked, but never count out a Tom Izzo team, especially one that won the Big Ten tournament.

Top players

• Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State. He may have been suspended for a confrontation with a fan and has been accused of flopping, but the dude can play.

• Doug McDermott, Creighton. Pretty much everyone's player of the year will be playing in the NCAA tournament for the final time. Expect big things.

• Jabari Parker, Duke. He has been not only been the best of this year's heralded freshman class, he's one of the best no matter what year.

• Shabazz Napier, UConn. About the only thing the Huskies' do-everything guard doesn't do is drive the team bus. Wouldn't be surprised if he did at some point.

• Russ Smith, Louisville. He is still Russdiculous.

• Sean Kilpatrick, Cincinnati. Playing on a defense-first team hasn't kept him from scoring 20 points a game.

• Nick Johnson, Arizona. The junior whose coach couldn't get a callback from elite summer camps has become one of the best two-way players in the country.

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