You could argue that today is the best day of the college basketball season and no one would put up much of a fight. Championship games in the ACC, SEC, Big 10, and Big 12 tournaments. If that's not enough, the Selection Show concludes the day's action.
This is it. All the speculation, -tologies, and wondering leads up to this day. After today, it's a race to win six.
Here's everything you need to know for the biggest day of the college basketball year.
12:00 noon, CBS
Defending champion Florida's obviously in, but what about Arkansas? The inconsistent Razorbacks have a couple ugly losses (Missouri, South Carolina) and their two best wins are probably over Mississippi State. Is that enough? If they lose, they'll be sweating come the Selection Show, so expect to see 40 Minutes of Hell this afternoon.
For Florida, it's hard to imagine they won't be announced a #1 seed this evening, and they look like they're turning it on for postseason play. Somehow, Florida's managed to be a little bit underrated this season, as expectations for defending national champions are always set a little too high. They remain The team to beat in March, and I expect them to put down Arkansas this afternoon.
12:00 noon, ESPN
Bubble teams across the country will be glued to both of these noon tipoffs, hoping for the favorites to knock off the potential spoilers. For NC State, the improbable NCAA berth must include a huge upset over the Tar Heels, which seems like a tall order, but perhaps less so with Tyler Hansbrough adjusting to wearing a goalie mask.
Even with Hansbrough limited by injury, it's difficult to imagine the Wolfpack stealing this one. The Tar Heels won by 19 in Chapel Hill, and unless they come out flat, have too much defense for NC State to pull the upset. I'll be shocked if the Tar Heels aren't your ACC Champions.
2:00 p.m., ESPN
No bubble drama in this one, as both teams are locked in to high seeds. For Kansas, they seem like a safe bet for a #1 seed at this point. For Texas, the only real question seems to be: #3 or #4 seed? Either way, both teams enter this game among the hotter teams in the country, and if we're lucky, we'll get a competitive and memorable title clash.
Watching Kansas play lately, it's increasingly clear that Julian Wright has to be on the shortest of short lists for players with the greatest impact on a game. If he's not scoring, he's drawing defenders and making the right passes. He defends well. He rebounds very well and when he's not pulling it down himself, he's keeping the ball alive for his teammates. The guy is just a nightmare for opponents, and if he plays as well as he did in the second half against Texas in Lawrence, it's going to be nigh-impossible to win. He's that good.
Of course: we have Durant. And if he gets to scoring like he did in the first half in Lawrence, there's not much Julian Wright (or anyone on the planet) can do.
In that sense, this is the most dynamic championship game of the day, and as a fan, I'm going to be pretty disappointed if these two teams wind up in the same bracket for the NCAA Tournament. I'd love to see both teams have a shot at the Final Four without having to face one another.
2:30 p.m., CBS
Going by the rankings, this is your top matchup of the day, and though it's a very interesting one, it's a notch below the Big 12 final. Watching Ohio State over the last 10 games, the biggest storyline that no one's talking about is the steady improvement of Greg Oden. I've gone from thinking Ohio State was vastly overrated to thinking they're going to be as tough an out in the tournament as anyone. The interior defense is stunning, and Oden's getting better at creating scoring looks for himself around the rim.
This looks like an uphill battle for Wisconsin, and I find it difficult to believe they'll score enough to win. Still, they've got the better coach, so I won't rule out a Badger Big 10 title. I just think another subpar shooting day against Ohio State is more likely than not. The Buckeyes can defend.
5:00 p.m., CBS
Join AW and I at BON as the picks are unveiled. We'll be live blogging the bracket announcements and chatting with you in the open threads about the various pairings.
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